People want to know all about watering--how much, when?

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

“Tell me about watering.” This plea is heard quite often on the Master Gardener Hotline.

How much, how often, what time of day or night are all questions the Master Gardener answering the hotline encounters. In an effort to cut down the workload and make you all better stewards of your growees, and hopefully cut down on your water bill, the following are some general rules on watering gardens, lawns and landscape plants that will be of interest:

A general rule is most growing plants require one to one and one-half inches of water per week. Of course, silk flowers require less. Generally speaking, this amount of water per week needs to be applied in two separate watering operations about three to four days apart. This means you are putting down 1/2-3/4 of an inch of water at one time. Deep watering is best! Usually 1/2-inch twice a week is sufficient, unless it is very hot and dry.

About the only way to determine how much water is being applied is to time the water and set out flat pie pans or other containers in several areas. After a given time, say 20 minutes, go out and measure the depth of the water in the pie pans. Then you can figure out about how long it will take to put down 1/2-inch of water. The same rules apply to your grass; 1/2-inch twice a week in the morning.

Landscape shrubs

Any shrub set out in the soil for three years or less should be watered at least two times a week in the absence of rain. This is particularly true in June, July and August. Infrequent, deep watering is healthier for the plants than light sprinkling every day. Morning watering helps reduce the chance of leaf or foliar diseases (3-7 a.m. is the best time). Established landscape plants (set out in the soil more than three years) should be thoroughly watered once every 10 days in the absence of rain. Mulch saves water.

Vegetable gardens

Always water vegetable plants early in the morning to allow the plant foliage to dry. Foliage kept wet overnight can become diseased. It is never a good idea to water late in the day or early evening.

Water vegetable plants longer on fewer days; in other words, water deeply two to three times a week instead of watering each day lightly. This helps develop a deeper root system. Remember, some vegetables (like tomatoes and melons) have higher water needs; they may require additional water. Container gardening will require more watering.

As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, it certainly behooves each of us to conserve water as much as we can. There are many areas of the country that have increasing cost of water depending on the amount used. If this were to ever happen here, you could be prepared to save money using these ideas. Drip irrigation/soaker hoses provide water where it is needed economically. Install rain barrels.

Lastly, a rain gauge is inexpensive and can save a large amount of money.

Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P. O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.