Elaine Sanders: Water Practices for Home Gardeners | Elaine Sanders ‹ Gardens and landscaping

When it comes to watering plants, are you the type to wait until the foliage resembles the texture of baked spring roll before reaching for a watering can? Or the one who waters the garden “to relax” while needlessly watering everything he sees as a greedy firefighter? Whatever your habits, watering doesn’t have to be a chore if it’s done right. Moreover, it is counter-intuitive to waste natural resources while caring for plants.

So how much water do plants really need? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including soil type, sunlight conditions, time of day and year, planting location, and type of plant. That said, most plants only need a few inches of water per week, an amount easily supplied by a short downpour, typical of recent times. It is important to keep in mind that infrequent, deep watering is better than frequent, shallow watering. The latter promotes root growth near the soil surface where plants are most susceptible to drought damage.

water at the roots

Plants do not absorb water through their leaves, so watering at the root zone rather than high up where water is lost to evaporation is not only more effective but also prevents disease. fungi to grow on the leaves. Soakers and drip irrigation systems slowly emit water directly at ground level over a long period of time. They are therefore particularly suitable for vegetable gardens that require a regular watering schedule.

Watering potted plants

Containers of annuals and vegetables—especially smaller ones and those in porous clay pots—require additional, even daily, watering during hot spells. Rainwater rarely passes through the foliage to reach the ground in containers. First check that the plants are dry by inserting a finger into the soil, then water them deeply until water seeps through the drainage holes at the bottom. Self-watering pots, equipped with a tube that absorbs water from the reservoir hidden inside the pot, allow less frequent watering. Grouping containers together, using quality potting soil and covering it with a fine, organic mulch also helps reduce moisture loss.

Watering the flowerbeds

For permanent garden plants such as perennials, shrubs and trees, proper watering during the first year of growth should promote deep root development so that the plant becomes established and generally does not require irrigation. additional watering. So stop watering established perennials, shrubs and trees; the root systems of these plants can usually fend for themselves. Think of the perennials in your garden that never need watering, such as peonies and large-leaved hydrangeas, even if they wilt on hot summer days.


One inch or 2.5 cm per week is all the water lawns need, so install sprinklers with a timer or collect and measure rainwater in a shallow dish. For those with irrigation systems, a rain sensor with automatic shut-off will reduce unnecessary watering. Mowing high and leaving grass clippings (which is mostly water) on the lawn can also help avoid drought, as can aerating compacted lawns and raking in a layer of quality compost.

Have a rain barrel

According to Statistics Canada, very few households in 2019 owned a rain barrel. Many municipalities offer residents incentives to encourage the use of rain barrels, which hold an average of 190 liters of rainwater. Rain barrels can be quite stylish and are easy to use when fitted with a faucet. Garden plants prefer warm, oxygen-rich rainwater to chlorinated water from the hose anyway. And rainwater is free. Need I say more?

Elaine Sanders can be reached at gardensoluti[email protected]

Terri S. Tomasini