Category Archives: Water

Location – Location – Location

In my college real estate class, they emphasized the phrase, Location, Location, Location.

It’s ironic that the same phrase is useful when planning a garden.

The above picture is a good example of the reddish Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower, and Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. These plants love their wet feet in my tiny pond. Even though they are outside and probably freeze at times, they grow well and seem to live for a number of years in these wet conditions.

On the other side, I have grown the same plants in my normal garden soil, but they don’t seem to last more than three years.

If I don’t have any obvious wet or dry soils, I look for spots which might be wetter or drier because of sun, water, or trees.
Irrigation is another way to keep the soil moist.

Either way all plants need water the first year. I keep an eye on new plants the first year and make sure they get enough water.

Another trick I am doing today is to plant just before rain is predicted.
I am planting today, because it is supposed to rain tomorrow.

Since Monarchs need milkweed for a host plant, I end up planting new Swamp milkweed every year even though I know that it has a short life. Cardinal flower is also a great nectar plant for hummingbirds, so I still plant it in regular garden soil at times just to feed the hummingbirds.

In conclusion, while most plants do well with regular soil and regular water, some have distinct preferences – either wet or dry.
If you know what they like, it helps your plants to stay happy and healthy.

Thanks to DK for this question.

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Vacation Sprinkler Setup

Orbit Water Timer

If you need to water potted plants during a vacation, here’s a basic setup which worked for me.

You first need a timer to let it know when you want the water turned on and for how long.
I used the Orbit Timer – it’s the basic unit. It uses 2 AA batteries and worked well for my last vacation.
I’d suggest testing it ahead of time so that you get the amount of water you need for your plants.

You can see most of the pots I wanted to water, plus there are a few which are hidden that it reached also. I just moved all my pots to within range and everything was alive when I came back. You can use whatever sprinkler you have on hand.

Note – I let Mother Nature take care of my lawn and other plants, although I do water ahead of my vacation if needed.

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Watering Plants the First Year

One of the reasons schools and individuals have trouble maintaining their gardens is that they put the garden in, water the plants and then assume the plants will thrive on their own. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work and the plants wither.

Soaker Hose with Timer

In general, I either recommend a Timer system for schools or a dedicated volunteer who will water on a regular basis. Depending on rain, I’d recommend at least once or twice a week to keep plants happy that first year. The problem with volunteers is that they come and go and at some point the garden is on it’s own. This is a good reason to use natives, but still watering the first season is critical.

Jesse Gilbertson, Horticulture Director for U City in Bloom, doesn’t put in any new garden without a water source. Find money to get irrigation – at least a spigot. They do have a water “truck” to water containers.

Scott Woodury of Shaw Nature Reserve says, “Establishment watering is critical for any planting. The establishment period might be three months long, it might be the entire growing season….let’s call it the first growing season.”

I personally use a timer on my hose with a sprinkler. It’s an inexpensive solution and only puts down the amount of water which is needed.

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Watering in Late Summer/Fall

The plant sales are starting up again and people are encouraged to plant now with the thought that plants will establish roots and be prepared for great spring growth.

The problem I observe with this philosophy is that many people don’t realize how dry the soil is and forget about their plants. It starts to cool off in September and people equate cool temperatures with great growing conditions. Unfortunately if the plants don’t have sufficient water, they will do poorly and possibly die.

I just looked at weather records for St. Louis during August and during the last 20 days we have only had .11 inches of rain. While I want my established plants to go deep for water, any new plants or transplants will need water on a regular basis.

I even tested moving plants during the 95 degree temperatures we had during July and with daily watering, they have come through like champs.

Echinacea moved in 95 degree temperatures.

Below is a nice video by Charles Dowding on hand watering. The only thing I would do differently is that I use a hose with sprayer or sprinkler attachment and a water timer.

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Watering During Vacation

water-timerIf you are going out of town and are concerned about your plants, here is a timer I am testing.

It’s the Orbit Single Outlet Programmable Hose Faucet Timer.
You can set it to water at specific times and for specific durations.

My main suggestion is to test this out ahead of time to check the coverage and how much water is actually being delivered to your plants.

For my plants in pots, I am also using a saucer underneath each one to capture more water since they have a tendency to dry out.

Below is a video on how to setup this timer.

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Watering Gardens and Lawns in 100 degree Spells

I found a great article on watering lawns put out by the Univ. of Missouri. It should obviously also apply to gardens.

Here are some highlights.

– Use a timer. “Some studies have shown that the average homeowner applies 2.5 times the amount of water that is required” Use a small can to measure how much water is applied to the area.

– “Most soils in Missouri will infiltrate only about ¼ to ½ inch of water per hour. If your sprinkler system delivers more than that amount, move it to a different location more frequently.”

– “Dormant lawns should receive at least 1 inch of water every two or three weeks during summer to prevent complete turf loss.”

–  “Best time to water a lawn is from 6 to 8 a.m.”

– The table below is what the author sent me. The article’s table is wrong.

Lawn type

Green Turf1
inches of water per week

Dormant Turf2
inches of water per week

Perennial ryegrass



Kentucky bluegrass



Tall fescue



Zoysia or bermuda






1Lawn remains green and growing
2Lawn may turn brown, but will not die


Here’s the entire article:

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