By Brian Larsen
I’m frequently asked for advice on how much to water plants. The not-so-convenient answer is that there is no convenient answer. With every plant and every situation, there are so many variables that affect how best to hydrate your garden. Every day, a plant will respond and adapt to the specific environmental conditions, which can vary wildly from site to site and from place to place within your garden. So, how do I answer questions like “How many minutes should I water?” or “How many gallons should I use?” My gut response is, “Who knows?”
When folks ask horticulturalists like me about watering their plants, it’s a challenge for us to answer because we’re not actually in your garden, we don’t know the backstory, we have no idea what’s going on there — and in your garden is where the real answers lie. Your specific set-up, including methods of irrigation and application rates, combined with the plant varieties, your garden landscape and the weather will all greatly influence calculating the optimum watering strategy. You can do the math, but less-experienced gardeners often get overwhelmed or miss important details needed for accurate results. In addition, these calculations would have to be run numerous times per season. We can all agree that the weather is in a constant state of flux.
Well, then, how do we figure it out? First, know if your plants generally like moist or dry soil.
The key to the next step is in the palm of your hands: Your finger. Stick your finger in the soil. If it feels too dry, water. That’s the simple truth of how it works. You can go buy an expensive moisture meter, but the tactile sensation in the human hand is far more sensitive. Save the money and read your plants. That’s how you know how much to water.