Water deeply and wisely during drought
- Published: Monday, June 5, 2023
HILLSBORO, Mo. – During drought, proper watering can help plants survive dry spells, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist Debi Kelly.
Kelly gives 10 tips to help your plants survive lack of precipitation.
1. Water in the morning. Watering in the evening lets water remain on leaves, making the plant susceptible to disease.
2. Water at the base of the plant. Water at soil level to avoid waste and prevent foliar diseases.
3. Water slowly and deeply. Plants need at least an inch of water weekly. Watering slowly allows water to infiltrate the soil and reach the roots.
4. Know your garden areas. Within each yard is a microclimate with varying degrees of shade and soil. Each requires different amounts of water.
5. Don’t fertilize when it’s dry. Fertilizer encourages plants to grow, and the extra growth requires more water. Also discontinue herbicides or insecticides, which can volatilize during high temperatures and drift to desired plants.
6. Weed. Weeds rob wanted plants of water.
7. Deadhead flowers. It takes water and energy for the plant to form a seed head.
8. Mulch. Use mulch around root zones to hold moisture and cool the roots.
9. Water some plants more often. Plants in containers and raised beds need more frequent watering because they dry more quickly.
10. Water trees and shrubs. Some recommend watering these for three years after planting.
Kelly recommends against watering edible plants with water caught in rain barrels, which can contain contaminants from roofing materials and birds. Use instead on flowers and shrubs.
Drip irrigation and soaker hoses that automate watering are a good investment, she adds. These slowly and steadily deliver water to the plants.
Check you soil’s moisture level. Soil may appear dry on top, but there might be adequate moisture beneath. Kelly recommends the “screwdriver test.” Poke a screwdriver into the soil and pull it out. If it comes out clean, the soil is dry and it’s time to water.
Kelly recommends checking the U.S. Drought Monitor at droughtmonitor.unl.edu.
Find more gardening tips from MU Extension by watching “The Garden Hour” at youtu.be/N_SI9xv1_rc.