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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Should I Be Watering?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Watering is yet another activity that gardeners have to make a decision about. Do I keep the lawn actively growing or let it go dormant. Should I be watering my flowers or vegetables, or how about the newly spring planted trees or shrubs. Let's start with the vegetables. Once flowering has begun, regular amounts of water will be critical for fruit development. We have all had cucumbers that are fat, then skinny then fat again. Cucumbers are 98+ percent water, so they are directly impacted. Tomatoes can continuously take up water to fill the fruits, so the more even the soil moisture; the more evenly the fruits will develop. One tip to share is if you have mature to ripe tomato fruits on the plant, pick them as the red skin has some growing and if you water then or we have rain you will find that they have split open. Snap beans produce over several weeks and they need moisture the whole time to fill out the bean pod. Root crops need that moisture to ensure you get to harvest a quality vegetable, worthy of your kitchen table. The bottom line is be sure to keep all your garden plants evenly watered and you will be rewarded in kind with great looking, nutritious vegetables.

Out in the landscape; be sure that any newly planted or transplanted trees, shrubs or perennials have plenty of water to ensure a stress free transition as the plants establish themselves in your home landscape. Perennials seem to recover the quickest, next would be shrubs and the last to recover from being transplanted are trees. A good rule of thumb for shade and ornamental trees is that for every inch of trunk diameter you can figure one year for recovery. During that time, you should be watering and monitoring your tree for insects and diseases as well. In general the larger or older the plant the more you should attending to it throughout the transplant period.

Keeping the lawn green and actively growing is for some the harder decision. Lawns can take a lot of water to keep them growing and can take quite a bit of time as well. We seem to have hit our summer dry hot weather a lot earlier this summer so the decision should be made soon. Even if you chose to let the lawn go dormant, there is still some lawn watering that should be done to keep the crown of the grass plant alive so there is something out there to resume growth later. About ½ inch of water every 2 or 3 weeks is typical. This will not turn the lawn green again. One drawback to allowing the lawn to go dormant will be the weeds. They will grow right through the droughty weather so you may have to attend to some weed control later in the fall. You can keep the lawn greener longer by mowing high and only if needed. For most mowers that setting second from the top or the top is good. The longer grass shades the soil, leaving more moisture available for growth.


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