The sun is out and the plants know it. Most of them now need more water than they have needed during the winter months. Some days it may feel like your arms are going to fall off or your back is going to break from hauling so much water. What can you do to get the proper amount of water to your plants and not kill yourself in the process? Here are some choices.
Water wisely. Give plants the amount of water they really need to survive. This means checking the plants on a regular basis to assess their water needs. Use your probe or moisture meter and really check that soil moisture. Just because that Dracaena marginata has been taking 2/3 of a bucket every week for the last month, it doesn’t mean that you can just dump in water without checking the soil this week. That kind of thinking can over or under water plants and make them look starved for attention. By providing the proper amounts of water your will acturlly save your self from hauling too much water over the course of time.
SIP. Sub-irrigation containers of all kinds can be a big help with your watering. This is because the water is being held down in the root zone where the plant can drink as it needs it rather than up on the surface where it evaporates to the surrounding air.
Cap mats. Capillary matting is a simple fabric sheet that wicks liquids up into containers through capillary action. To help reduce water evaporating from the saucer before the plant can use it, add a cap mat to your saucer and the extra water will be saved in the cap mat until the plant is ready for a drink.
Soil moisture managers. Soil additives such as Hydretain® help retain water for the plant to use over time. Hydretain is a unique blend of liquid hygroscopic and humectant compounds formulated to efficiently manage soil moisture. It extends the watering interval by slowing the evaporative loss and helps keep the plant from experiencing water stress by transferring water to the roots of the plant.
Add soil and mulch. By adding a fresh layer of soil to your plant the water you give will stay in the root ball a tad longer and the plant will use a bit less water from week to week and show less signs of water stress. Our favorite way to add soil is with what we fondly call soil cookies. The real name for this compost, peat moss and polymer micro-resevoirs mix is EZ-Soil. It is about the size of an Oreo Cookie and is a no muss, no fuss solution to adding a bit of soil to established plants.
By adding mulch to those beds and pots you will reduce the water needed considerably. This is the time of year to up-sell some fresh bark or moss for those big mall beds and accounts that are over one year old.
Plant varieties. Some plants just drink more than others. Consider switching out the Podocarpus that is direct potted in a terra cotta pot with a Cereus cactus grown in a nursery container. For interior color orchids or Bromeliads instead of mums.
Water machines. Switch to using a water machine instead of buckets for accounts that require more than six buckets of water. It will save you time and strain on your back. With a water machine because you are not physically hauling so much water, instead letting your water roll along on wheels, you are more likely to give the proper amount to the plant. Too often with lugging buckets the possibility exists to skimp on water because the thought of running back to get one more bucket is just too much effort.
You can do a lot of little things that build up to big changes in your water use that will help you and the plants perform better. You will smile and your plants will shine in triumph as you think out a successful water plan for the hot days of summer.