As we progress through the season, remember to continually to be germinating new seed for continuous sustainability. Keep those newly sown and germinated areas watered several times a day, every day. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

As we progress through the season, remember to continually to be germinating new seed for continuous sustainability. Keep those newly sown and germinated areas watered several times a day, every day. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Get the drop on watering

YEAH, RAIN! APRIL is on track to be the driest ever on record and any moisture now is critical because of the early spring needs your plants require as they “break out.”

In fact, moisture plays an essential role in the growth of your plants because of the way nutrients are transferred to your botanical wonders.

To define this further, and to prove that I can turn any question into a novel, a reader asks:

Dear Andrew, advice for a new gardener please.

I built my raised beds, compost bins and deer enclosure.

Now I’ve got broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, radishes, spinach and onions, etc.

My simple question is, is there a formula or rule of thumb for how often and how much water they require?

Thanks a lot.

Rick

Dear Rick: I could be snarky and say, yes — when they are dry.

However that is so far from the correct and detailed answer to the question you are asking.

I have always maintained that watering is really an art form due to all the nuances involved.

First, let’s consider those raised beds of yours.

The edges, corners and front of any container or bed dries out far faster than does the rest of that area.

So first, and especially on sunny days, water the edge everyday and water that area first, then with the entire area and then at the end as the last place during that watering.

Watering like this is the only way to go.

I always water my corners and edges of any area as soon as I turn on the hose, then water the whole area as one spot, then finish by watering the edges and corners again in order to fully saturate these problem spots.

Also, for planters, pots, flower baskets and raised planters, as the soil dries out it contracts.

Almost always a small gap and air space opens up between the soil and the edge of whatever container we are talking about.

As you water, the moisture moves over to the side and quickly drains away down that opening without dampening most of the soil, so watering first, middle and last saturates that soil. As it gets re-hydrated, the gap and space closes.

Remember this always.

Stage of the plant

Next, the development of your plants plays a critical role.

Small seedlings have little or no root system, so I would water them two, three, even four times a day depending on the sun and wind.

Wind can dry out soil way faster than the sun can.

It’s the same with the seeds I have just sown because they need to be kept moist for ideal germination rates.

It is proper to mist these areas where germination is occurring up to four or five times a day.

By the way, Rick, good job on all your vegetables, but remember for great sustainability you should be sowing succession rows of radishes, beets and greens every 10 days, as well as new broccoli and Brussels sprouts every 20 to 30 days. so you will be watering certain areas several times a day.

Now, as your plants get older and larger, their foliage grows and shades out the ground from both wind and the sun.

This causes the soil to dry out far less often than when they were young and soil needs to be watered less often.

Environmental factors

Of course, temperature and time of season play a role as well.

Currently in April, evenings are very cool (too cool for tomatoes, beans, pepper’s, squash, basil and cucumbers) and the sun is low in the sky.

Come July and August, the sun is far more intense, so things dry out faster than they would now.

The garden is also maturing by then so robust root systems are drinking up a lot more water.

The formula: If you stick your finger (not thumb) down in the soil two inches, that becomes a good indicator of how damp your soil really is.

Remembering that the soil surface (except for seeds and seedlings) is best dry at night.

How it works

Finally, the last chapter in “The Art of Watering.”

Water is the way plants get their nutrients.

Water fills in the “pore space,” the space between the various particles in the soil. It sits there for a time, dissolves the nutrients into a slurry and then through the process of osmosis (from greater to lesser) the nutrients and moisture get absorbed by the root hairs. Then up the plant the vitamin-packed water goes.

So, if your soil drains well— and only if your soil area drains well — then water every day because to do so is to fertilize every day.

This is what I do unless we get a real significant rainfall (¼ inch or more) — watering made simple!

Everyone should be dis-budding their peonies and deadheading their spring bulb plants now.

Until next week, stay well all.

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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