How to Water
If you’re like most gardeners, you may find the issue of watering a bit confusing, or at the very least, have questions about when to water, how much to water, and even what’s the best method of application. We get a lot of questions about watering, and if you are confused about this issue, I hope that it makes you feel better to know that you are not alone, and that your confusion is not unwarranted.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to watering. Not only does watering differ from plant to plant and garden to garden, but supplemental irrigation will be affected by whether your garden’s in sun or in shade, and by your climate and soil type. The best way to check is to poke down at least 3” to see if the ground is moist.
Water deeply to encourage deep roots and water around the plant for lateral growth. Young small transplants may need more water as roots establish, but be careful not to drown them. Just because a plant wilts in late afternoon doesn’t mean it needs water. Check the soil!
And then there’s the monkey wrench in the mix: the proliferation of conflicting information on the internet, not all of which is wrong or ill-informed, but much of which may not be quite right for you, even though it seems to be! Recently, while I was doing some research for a CTG segment, I came across conflicting information on the water requirements of a tree that I knew to be a riparian species. I wanted to confirm the knowledge that I had gathered on this tree while working with it in El Paso, and to see what local horticulturists in Central Texas had to say about it. The first site that popped up in my search was from a very prominent group, well-respected for their horticultural information, especially as it relates to water and landscape issues. Well, on this website, the tree in question was listed simply as “low-water-use,” with no further contextual information. Firstly, I was disappointed at the site’s oversimplification, and then I stopped to consider this issue more deeply. I concluded that the site was just trying to meet consumer demand for some simple instructions to assist in their decision making about choices of plants. Unfortunately, this oversimplification is a byproduct of our times. We all lead very busy lives and don’t have time to study a topic, then implement that knowledge and tweak it to our particular situation through trial and error. Nor do we have the time for reading extended text with the full focus required not only to digest that information, but then to extrapolate it to our own unique soil, lighting, and climatic information. Very quickly we find ourselves overwhelmed by this complexity, which causes us, perhaps even unknowingly, to gravitate more towards bullet points and sound bites.
As a County Extension Agent, I recognize this frustration in the calls that I receive almost daily, from consumers who don’t end up on my doorstep until the situation is seemingly dire. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that assisting you with your questions on various topics, from nutrition and family issues, to large acreage farming operations, to watering, pruning, and mowing, is why the Cooperative Extension Service was developed. And we’re still here to help you. So please, consider reaching out to your local County Extension Office (Travis) to ask them a question before you begin your project, or at any point along the way. Find your Extension Office.
As for more specific information on watering, lawns, trees, vegetables and others, here on CTG we can arm you with a bit more expanded info, and we will definitely revisit this issue in the near future.
Our wildlife spotlight comes from Deb Wilson, former blogger at Austin Agrodulce in Rollingwood. Last June Deb and her family moved to Dripping Springs, where she concentrates mostly on native plants, but also includes family pass-alongs and herbs, including the parsley that she grows for the kitchen, and to share as a larval host for Swallowtail butterflies. In summer’s heat, she hand-watered the transplants, and recently, their first Eastern Black Swallowtail emerged from a chrysalis that over-wintered in the parsley. So, if you see tiny eggs on your parsley and then caterpillars chomping them, be glad that you’ll have beautiful butterflies soon.