What’s the best way to water a garden?

Although spectacular, drops on the surface of leaves can’t burn them by creating a magnifying effect.
Credit: Space for Life (Francis Cardinal)
L'effet loupe
  • L'effet loupe
  • Après la pluie, le beau temps
  • Arroser en plein soleil
  • Le paillis, cette solution écologique
  • Arc-en-ciel
What’s the best way to water a garden?

Watering a garden may seem like a small thing, but people often aren’t aware of certain basic principles, plus there are some myths that won’t go away. Proper watering helps optimize harvests and keep plants in good health.

Can splashing leaves be harmful?

Yes, but contrary to what people may think, it’s not because of the magnification effect. The drops on the leaves’ surface combined with the sunrays can’t burn the foliage, even in full sunshine. During the summer, storms are often followed by sunny periods, with no damage to the garden.

Nevertheless, prolonged dampness on the leaves surface’s may contribute to the development and spread of some diseases: leaf infections like mildew.

When and how should we water?

Everyone agrees that morning is the ideal time for watering. First, because the soil is still cool and absorbs more water. And second, because leaves will quickly dry if they’re watered at that time of day.

Conversely, in the evening, wet leaves will remain damp for a long period. But if you take the trouble to avoid splashing the leaves, evenings are still acceptable for watering. Cooler temperatures contribute to a better moistening of the soil before the return of the heat. That said, a damp garden is an ideal setting for certain undesirables like snails and slugs.

Finally, it’s the waste of water, essentially, that’s the principal argument against watering in the daytime. The sun and higher temperatures bring about faster evaporation. Nevertheless, if your plants really need it, it’s better to water instead of waiting for the “right time.” And it should be mentioned, a single in-depth watering is better than a number of treatments on the surface.

Proper watering for growing in pots or tubs

Container growing presents a challenge where watering is concerned. A pot drains and warms up quickly, resulting in faster water escape and nutrient leaching. Whereas roots in the earth have access to more reserves, in a pot it’s impossible for them to dig down for water or minerals.

Frequent watering and a potting soil that retains moisture are recommended, along with more frequent fertilization. Relatedly, although holes are essential at the bottom of your pots and your gardening tubs, a drainage layer at the bottom is useless, even harmful, as the “Laidback Gardener” points out in an article about planthouse myths.

Lastly, make sure to choose plant varieties that tolerate container growing conditions. They normally need fewer nutrients and are more drought tolerant.

Keep your soil cool (and alive) and save water

Heatwaves often coincide with vacations. Saving water and preventing the dehydration of our plants is easier when we use an organic mulch. Whether you use dead leaves, wood chips or straw, the idea is to create an insulating layer for the soil. In addition to conserving moisture, that barrier protects the life of the soil. A living soil is one that breathes, regenerates and aerates naturally thanks to the activity of living beings. A little like our ecosystems and our intestinal flora, a soil with biodiversity will prove to be more resilient.

A tip list, to wind up

  • Know your plants, and water accordingly; their needs are not the same. Deeply rooted perennials are more resilient than new seedlings with short roots.
  • Double-bottomed containers are an interesting opportunity for container growing while staying a step ahead of high temperatures.
  • Brush up on rainwater collection or drip systems, or the olla principle.
  • Before watering, examine your soil to check on whether it’s really dry.

Consult our links on garden irrigation to improve your watering techniques.

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