Gardening Tip: Wait to Start Irrigating!
With the sunny, warm weather we’ve had lately, some people are eager to start irrigating their gardens and lawns. In the case of a garden or landscape, I beg you, wait! Here are a few reasons why.
Build a stronger plant
We had such a wet winter, there is still a lot of moisture in our soils. Temperatures are still cool enough that roots are growing. Plants will grow roots will grow where that moisture is. Right now, plants will naturally seek out the moisture in the lower levels of the soil. But if we start watering now, keeping the upper couple inches of soil moist, the plants will “get lazy” and put roots out in that level of the soil, and grow further deeper down. The problem with that is that is the first few inches of the soil is the first to dry out, so if that is where the roots are – then they are damaged by the drying and the plant will suffer. However if we wait to irrigate, more root growth will happen in the lower cooler soil horizons that don’t dry out so quickly, making for a more resilient plant.
Save yourself work in the future
Another thing about irrigating now is that it encourages plants to put on lots of growth and leaf mass. Not only will this take even more water to maintain later when we get into high summer, but it often just means more pruning or mowing. Waiting to irrigate until the soil moisture level has really dropped will help your plants grow at a more conservative pace, require less pruning or mowing, and will encourage drought tolerance.
Regardless of how much it rained this winter, there is only so much water in our aquifers. Let’s save what we have for drinking!
There’s always an exception
Many of us have planted our summer plants and hanging baskets. Of course, those need water! And if you have a veggie or flower garden with tender young baby plants, do water them. I just ask for everyone to think before they act, and remember that water is a finite resource that we should respect!