How to water wisely, plus more tips from Master Gardeners

hose slowly watering plant
To deeply water your plants, let the hose run slowly over a long period of time. That will help get the water down to the roots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Make sure you keep your plant watered enough to get through dry weather, and do it without wasting a lot of time.

Carol Ann Harlos, Master Gardener, shares tips on how to accomplish that in “Wise Watering,” part of this month’s issue of WNY Gardening Matters, produced by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County. The articles aren’t yet posted on the WNY Gardening Matters site, but you can read them by clicking on the links in my article here.

Make sure that when you water, you get water down to where the roots are.

“Roots grow where the water is,” Harlos said in “Wise Watering.” “If water only soaks down to a depth of half an inch, that’s where the roots will be. The closer the roots are to the surface, the more easily they can dry out and die.”

Watering deeply will not only get the water to where it’s needed, it will encourage the plant to grow deeper roots so that it is able to withstand hot, dry weather.

Adding organic material such as compost or well rotted manure increases the moisture-holding capacity of soil. A layer of mulch also lessens evaporation from the soil, she said.

Harlos has lots of easy-to-understand information about watering in this article. Read it here. 

The other articles in July’s issue of WNY Gardening Matters include an article on the interesting giant red velvet mite. There is also an article on what to do in your garden this month, which includes information on what might be ailing your clematis, too.

10 Comments on “How to water wisely, plus more tips from Master Gardeners

  1. I have a question about what weeds in my garden could be causing a rash that is similar to poison ivy. I had not kept up with weeding and while I usually wear long sleeves and pants when gardening to avoid insect bites, that wasn’t possible in the heat wave when I finally got around to it, and I found a lot of little bumps on my arm that are intermittently extremely itchy and eventually burst and weep before they scab over. Some of them have spread to other areas that were not exposed to plants, such as an ankle when I had been wearing socks, and behind my knee, so I think they spread when I have touched the weepy bumps. I am positive that there is no poison ivy in the area. What could it be?

  2. Might you have touched tomato plants while weeding? I have to be careful because tomatoes affect me with a similar itchy rash, but not to the extent of weeping. You say you are sure it’s not poison ivy, but I’ve found tiny, but potent, seedlings among other weeds, courtesy of birds. In any case, heartfelt sympathies!

  3. Thanks Connie and Roxann. It just occurred to me that Queen Anne’s lace is probably related to Giant Hogweed–they look much alike on a different scale–and there is a lot of that (the former–QAL) in my yard though I also have a possible Giant Hogweed in another part of the property that I am not sure what to do with. I knocked it down with a spade but don’t know how to dispose of it safely. I did not touch it at any time because I know it has long-term harmful effects when touched . An internet search suggested that Queen Anne’s lace can indeed cause rashes so I think that is probably it because I did contact it. Or it could be tiny poison ivy I guess. I live near a wooded area. I do have tomatoes but haven’t touched the stems as they were planted late and not ready to harvest. Cucumbers are also irritating but I don’t touch the stems without gloves and they don’t cause a rash. The rash has persisted for at least a week.

  4. Connie, thanks for the info. I was going to call my town highway dept but they only take calls one hour a day. I talked to a very helpful person at the DEC, and sent pictures. He said that giant hogweed only flowers when it is full-sized so that couldn’t be it as mine was spindly and about 4 feet high. Turns out, he told me after seeing the pictures, that the plant is sweet cicely. I didn’t know that could get that large– a friend once used it as a fill-in in her Toronto garden and gave me some seeds, which didn’t grow, but hers were kept very small and looked quite pretty, like ferns. The DEC person said it is somewhat irritating but would cause a red patch like hogweed but milder, not blisters, so I’m having to go with poison ivy lurking somewhere. Thanks for answering my first message even though it was off the topic of watering. I really like your newsletter.

  5. Ellen, I had a similar experience about 2 months ago after weeding and putting down mulch. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt but with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. After I went back inside I found a large welt on the inside of my right elbow. It was about the size of a golf ball in circumference, was dark in color and had some raised areas where I could see fluid under the skin. It itched a little but not too bad and did not spread. But it did have a fluid discharge. I also had a few other smaller welts on the arm, but not as bad. I searched the web for “mulch and skin irritations”. It said that occasionally store bought mulch can contain traces of poison ivy and other irritants. The photos it showed of poison ivy rash looked like what I had. Maybe mulch was what caused your problem?

  6. Tom, Maybe so–I was putting some mulch down too. I’m a little sensitive to peat (which is odd with my Irish ancestry!) but only mild itching, no welts or blisters. Still can’t find anything resembling poison ivy on my property but I haven’t been out there much this week–waiting for the worst of this, on my inner elbow, to heal.

  7. Ellen
    My rash subsided after 2-3 days, although now 2 months later the skin where it was is still dark. But it appears to be slowly fading back to normal. Good luck with your recovery!

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