Hot weather can be tough on both plants and people. Our bodies contain about 60 percent water and many plants are 85 to 90 percent water! With people hot weather raises your requirement for fluids whether you’re exercising or not. The same can be said for plants. And yes when they are putting out (flowering or fruiting) I consider that “plant exercise” for something planted in place. For you humans sitting on the deck put down that beer and caffeinated energy drink….they do not count as hydrating.
I love words and specifically synonyms. So when writing, I work to paint a picture with words using a variety of descriptive alternatives…you could say I am on a “synonym roll”. I’m on such a roll when it comes to watering needs of plants.
Attention is not a critical act like judgment is. It is an art and a discipline. Unless they are a celebrity, most people don’t receive a lot of attention and some actually shun it, but all of us pay it. You choose what to pay attention to. Attention is actually an act of loving kindness. And when it comes to your plants and the word “attention” is it any wonder that synonyms like “absorption” or “application” and “immersion” are considered synonyms of attention? Attention and watering needs go hand in hand. Assiduity is another great synonym for attention so add that one to your vocabulary and hope to draw on that the next time you play scrabble.
The people who are best at watering are those who pay attention. You can see it with the young people that you hand a hose. Some methodically get the hose down to the soil and work from start to finish. Others mindlessly hold the hose above the flowers drawing imaginary circles and patterns as they daydream with their mind off in another world. The people who are best at assessing water needs are those that pay attention. The plants are trying to tell you something. They don’t communicate like we do as people but they do communicate…with their foliage. If only plants could talk.
As someone who assists others with their plant needs I am often approached by people who want me to just give them the definitive answer on “when they should water.” They say, “just tell me when and how often to water and I will do it.” If I told them to water every Wednesday at 12:45 PM while standing on one leg and singing ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ they would do it.
You see when it comes to watering, there are no absolute one size fits all every month of the year rules. It’s a judgment call that depends on the type of plant, the soil makeup, the exposure and weather, the time of year and many other variables.
As with people, some plants tolerate heat better than others. Knowing which plants like it hot and which ones don’t, can help your vegetables and flowers deal with hot weather. Take vegetables as an example. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, most herbs and corn love some hot weather and steamy overnight temperatures to develop an abundant crop. If they receive sufficient water these sun worshippers are well equipped to survive the heat and are thirsty sun lovers. Cool weather crops like lettuce, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, peas or cilantro are going to pout when it gets hot. They might bolt the scene or give up altogether regardless of “weather” or not they get enough water. With flowering annuals plants like Gazanias, Zinnias, Portulaca, Scaevola as examples just love the heat. Some like Pansies wilt in the heat and are just anxious for the fall season to arrive.
- It brings up the point, know your plant and put the right plant in the right place.
- Water can be the number one killer of plants….sometimes too much water with houseplants as a good example. If the roots are wet and the top of the plant is not asking for water serious decline can take place usually demonstrated first in the condition and color of the foliage. Outdoors heavy clay soils that don’t drain well can be over watered and literally drown plants to death.
- Provide a good foundation. Invest in the soil. A good well drained soil with moisture and nutrient retention is ideal. Most of the time we do this by incorporating liberal amounts of organic matter with the existing parent soil.
- You can overdo a good thing so don’t over mulch. One to two inches however will do wonders to cool roots and soil temperatures in hot weather.
- Morning is most efficient time to water when the weather is hot.
- Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. It’s also the reason watering at a time of day that allows foliage to dry before the evening hours is a good practice.
- Consider using tools in your watering tool box like Mycorrhizae,soil moist polymers and moisture meters.
Finally remember this with plants in containers and hanging baskets. Where practical you can tell if a pot or basket needs water by lifting up on it and assessing the weight. Watering doesn’t benefit if the water runs down the outside of the root ball, leaving the roots at the core of the plant dry. Often drying soil will contract away from the sides of the pot. The water runs across the upper surface and down the sides. This can happen if you water too quickly or apply too much water at once. Maybe poke some holes in the upper surface “crust” as the root mass develops. Slower watering is usually more effective. This can apply to plants in the ground too. Sometimes slow trickle watering is needed to ensure that water gets to the root zone.