Watering Basics for Novice Gardeners Watering Basics for Novice Gardeners

Human beings are composed of water - and so are plants. In fact, plants are 75 to 90 percent water, so attending to their water needs is an important part of successful gardening. But just like anything else, you can have too much of a good thing. There’s as much danger in over-watering as there is in under-watering. That's why learning some guidelines for watering will serve you well throughout the season.

First off, all plants don't require the same amount of water. So adapting a one-watering-for-all-plants technique will not work. Sure, some of your plants will get the right amount, but some will get too much water and some not enough.

When you buy your plants, take note of the little plastic stakes that come with each plant. These stakes will guide you to how much water a particular plant needs. Developing plants need a little more water; this will encourage their roots to grow deep. Hanging baskets and container plants in terra cotta pots also need more water as the soil in each can dry out sooner.

If you are growing plants from seeds, remember that seedlings need a little extra water too. But you've got to be gentle: the small shoots and tender stems of seedlings can't take the high water pressure of a hose. Instead, water with a watering can or even a plastic pitcher. Water directly into the soil, and don’t just dump the water on top of these baby plants.

And just because it has rained doesn’t mean your plants have enough water. Some of your plants might be protected by the eaves or roofline of your house and not get enough water from the rain. Same story with container plants on your porch or patio - they may get no water from the rain, so keep a sharp eye on their needs. If you have saucers under your container plants, don't let water sit in there either.

Although there is not one good time to water, most experts agree that early morning or early evening is the best time. If you water in the full sun in the heat of the day, the water may evaporate too quickly. If you water as it's getting dark, the water left on leaves overnight is an open invitation for fungus.

As a rule of thumb, you want your soil to be moist (not wet) to a depth of three to six inches. A good investment to make is an attachment for the end of your hose that can turn the water on and off as your proceed around your garden or yard. And watch as you tug on that hose - it's easy to drag the hose by accident through a planting bed and injure your plants.

As the season progresses, you'll come to know the water requirements of all the plants in your care and learn to adjust your watering for weather conditions and individual plant needs. As you start out, though, remember that too much water is as bad as too little.

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