One of the most critical components in maintaining the home landscape is ensuring the plants receive adequate amounts of water.

More plants suffer for too much water than not enough, which is true even during droughts. Knowing when to water and when not to essential in keeping your plant material healthy.

Excessive water can lead to root rot diseases and other issues. Chances are, either the plant has received excessive amounts of water or the soil drainage is poor or both.

To find out how well your soil drains, try this test before you plant. Dig a hole a foot or so deep and about a foot wide. Then fill it with water. After the water has drained, fill the hole a second time. The water should drain out in 24 hours or less. If it takes more, the addition of topsoil, organic matter, or some other amendment is necessary. Improving the soil characteristics before planting is much easier than treating diseases that might be set in later.

One proper watering each week is enough for most plants. However, do not avoid light watering that gets the top layer of the wet soil that does not penetrate the three to four inches where plants need it. Often people overwater simply out of habit or because the top layer of soil is dry. Checking the soil from time to time to see how well it is draining and whether the plants are receiving the proper amount of water.

To do this, dig about six inches down to see how much moisture the soil has. Don’t dig into the root systems of plants, but rather around them. But make sure you get down below the root zone — about six inches, in most cases if you find that the soil is dry and powdery that far down, apply water. Soil that has adequate amounts of water will stick together when pressed into a ball.

The plants should receive water earlier in the day before noon to allow for the foliage to dry. Watering in the afternoon and evening will cause moisture to be lost to evaporation and increase the likelihood of diseases.

When applying water, make sure to direct it to the base of the plant where it gets to the roots and keeps the foliage dry. Doing so on lawns and low growing plant material is not practical but is quite useful in other situations.

In areas with poor drainage, consider using plants that tolerate wet sites. Some trees, such as bald cypress, red maples, and willows thrive in wet soils. Shrubs such as Virginia sweetspire, summer sweet, and inkberries tolerate moist soils. So do swamp sunflowers, daylilies, and certain species of irises. Please refer to my article published on May 2 titled “Plants that thrive in wet sites.”

Proper water applications will go a long way to keep your home landscape attractive and healthy. Ensure your plants receive enough water to keep them growing but avoid excess amounts that can cause them to suffer.

My blog “Gardening in Gwinnett” is up and running again. Please check it out: http://gardeningingwinnett.blogspot.com/

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Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or tdaly@uga.edu.

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