When Enough is Enough: How to Avoid Overwatering
Growing season is in full-swing now and one question that comes up repeatedly is, “How much water do my plants need?” We’ve created this easy guide to answer that very important question.
Plants can definitely die from lack of water; however, you can also kill them off with too much water. Overwatering saturates the soil which displaces the necessary oxygen and literally drowns your plants. The simple answer to the question of “how much” is, simply, “enough”.
New plants need extra water, of course, but once they’re well-established that amount can be reduced. The rule of thumb is that most plants only need to be watered if there’s a significant absence of rain. In other words, nature balances itself and only sometimes needs a helping hand from us.
There are some easy ways to determine when nature needs that hand. On average, you need to give your plants one inch of water per week if there’s no rain. If it is raining, but not a lot, you should add enough water to make up an inch. Here’s how to figure it out:
- Get a rain gauge. This handy device tracks rainfall and show how much water your plants have received.
- Use your finger. It’s impossible to determine how moist the soil is beneath by simply looking at the surface; this is especially true if your plants have been mulched. Stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle, and then take it out (just as you would with an oil dipstick in your car). If there’s soil stuck to your finger, your plant has all the moisture it needs. However, if your finger is fairly clean, water right away because your plant is thirsty!
- Dig it. Another option for determining moisture levels is to dig down about six to twelve inches and check the soil. This works best when the soil is dry. Start up your irrigation system (drip, wand, soaker hose, or overhead) and wait several minutes. Turn off your irrigation system and dig again to the same depth. If the soil is still dry, keep watering. If it’s saturated, you now know the maximum duration you need to water using your current system. Remember, though: Saturation is too much, so you’ll want to reduce the time just a bit to avoid it.
- Smart systems. Hydro-Scape also has a number of “smart” irrigation systems available. These systems have sensors that tell the master controller the moisture conditions of your soil and adjust your irrigation (or tell you to adjust it, depending on the system) to the appropriate level.
There’s also an environmental impact from watering only when necessary: you conserve water! The typical home landscape, watered only as needed, will use approximately twenty-five percent less water. That’s a savings of about 11,000 gallons of water for each landscape per year or a whopping 700 billion gallons per year if everyone in the U.S. watered only as needed. As always, if you have any questions about proper irrigation, please give us a call or visit your local Hydro-Scape.