Gardening Tip #3: Don't Overwater!
Gardens need water; plants need water. This is not new information, even to the most novice gardeners out there. Water forms the basis for all life on earth; healthy garden plants are no exception. When gardens start to look a little lifeless, oftentimes the first thing people think to do is to give it a little more water. Herein lies a common mistake many gardeners make: too much water. There can definitely be too much of a good thing when it comes to watering your garden.
How do we know when watering becomes overwatering? Here are some tips.
If Water is Good, Why Isn't More Water Better?
Too much water can be fatal to the plants in your garden; think of your garden's soil as its 'lungs.' Plants require the oxygen that is present in healthy soils, which is why poor soil quality is so bad for them. Too much water is just as bad for soil quality. When the ground is oversaturated with water, the soil is unable to hold any oxygen. The plants' roots literally drown in too much water. This oversaturation leads to root rot, which leads to the plant dying.
How to Tell When Enough is Enough
Too much water is bad; on the flip side, so is too little water. Having insufficient moisture in the soil will also kill your plants, obviously. Dehydration in extreme forms will kill us; it'll also kill your garden. Healthy garden plants definitely thrive in a 'goldilocks' moisture zone; not too much, not too little. How do you tell when your garden's moisture levels are just right?
For gardeners looking for the easiest, hands-off solution, there are automatic sensors on the market (like this one) that control the amount of water irrigated into the garden based on moisture levels in the soil detected by sensors. Automatically turning water on and off based on the need, automatic (or "smart") water sensors are a great way to ensure your garden is being watered efficiently and properly.
If you can't afford a 'smart' irrigation system, or would simply rather not rely on technology to do it for you, it's not that difficult to keep moisture levels in the 'goldilocks' range. It involves simply spending time in the garden and keeping a close eye on the soil.
You're going to be in the garden a lot, tending to the plants, pulling weeds, getting your hands dirty. As you're digging in the dirt, simply pay attention to it. If the soil is hard and compacted, it needs water. Rock hard ground is not good, but wet, muddy soil dripping with water is a sign of overwatering.
Soil that is adequately watered (not too much, not too little) will be moist to the touch. You should be able to grab a handful of it and easily squeeze it into a ball without it crumbling apart.
Along with checking the soil, the condition of your garden plants will usually tell you if they need water. You can plant an 'indicator' plant as a canary-in-the -coal-mine to give you a heads up that moisture is needed. These indicator plants, such as hydrangeas or lettuce, are more sensitive to water conditions, and will begin to wilt before the other plants in the garden. This is a sign to get out the hose.
By spending time in your garden and paying attention to the plants and soil, you will quickly learn the conditions that are most beneficial. Your attention to detail makes you an important part of the garden's ecosystem, helping it to grow and thrive. Enjoy it!
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