Thursday, 02 July 2020 13:27
By Peter Bowden | Home & Garden

IT WOULD SEEM that nothing could be simpler than watering your garden, but I’m always amazed that so many gardeners, even experienced gardeners, continue to make the rookie mistake of spraying their plants with water. Spraying your gardens with water can turn even a great growing season into a struggle.

Here’s why:

1. Spraying chills the leaves, shocking the plant. On a hot day we might think that our tomato plants would enjoy a cooling spray from the hose. Actually, tomatoes love their leaves to be hot. On a 90° summer day, the leaves of the tomato are evaporating moisture. The tomato (or any of our garden plants) replaces that moisture by drawing it up through its roots. Along with that moisture come the nutrients the plant needs to grow, flower and produce fruit. Wetting the leaves shuts down that process. When the leaves get hit with that 50°F water from the hose, it shocks the plant and it takes a couple of days to recover. Every time you chill your tomato by spraying it with water, you’re cheating yourself out of at least couple of days of growing. Our season is short enough without being cheated by spray watering.

2. Spraying our plants with water creates a perfect environment for fungal diseases to incubate and thrive. Folks are always worried about late blight, powdery mildew and a host of other diseases but they’ll continue to water their vegetable and flower gardens with a lawn sprinkler. Roses and tomatoes are especially prone to fungal diseases so special effort should be made to keep their foliage dry as much as possible. Plants with dry leaves are always going to be healthier. Wet leaves are an invitation to the spores of fungal diseases.

3. Spraying our plants with water washes the pollen out of the flowers. Once that happens, the plant will abort that now-useless flower. In the case of flowering ornamental plants, this means that a flower that could have lasted several days will now turn to mush by the next morning.

In the vegetable garden, spraying the pollen out of the flowers means that no fruit will form until a new flower opens and gets pollinated. All the effort we put into our vegetable gardens is undermined when we water with a lawn sprinkler or spray them with water from a hose.

4. Spray watering wastes water. Plants absorb water through their roots and that is where the water should be directed. Water sprayed on your garden evaporates into the air, doing little good for your plants and a great deal of damage.

Right about now you may be thinking “Rain wets the plants though.” That’s true but it rarely rains when the sun is shining and it is usually a bit cooler. Rain also falls from above and many flowers have adapted with downward facing flowers. Morning Glories will actually close before a rain to protect the pollen. A rainy growing season does create lots of fungal disease problems for plants. There’s no good reason to replicate the miseries of a soggy growing season. 

So, how do we water the gardens without wetting the plants? Use a watering wand. A watering wand allows you to direct the water to the soil at the base of each plant so the roots can be soaked while wetting the foliage as little as possible. For a deep soak, let the wand trickle slowly at the base of each plant for a longer time. If you haven’t the time or patience for wand watering, you can use oozing soaker hoses so all you have to do is hook up your hose and walk away.

Watering your gardens isn’t difficult but make sure that it helps rather than harms your plants.


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