Up to 60% of the human body is water, for plants it can be as much as 95%. Water is essential from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season. Plants need water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even for holding themselves up. It even dissolves fertilizers, carrying nutrients to different parts of the plant. If the cells don’t have enough water in them, the result is a wilted plant. However, there are times when water is not what a wilting plant needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves sometimes get ahead of the roots’ ability to provide them with water. If the day is hot and the plants wilt in the afternoon, don’t worry about them; they will regain their balance overnight. But if plants are wilting early in the morning, water them immediately.
For established plantings, deep, infrequent watering is recommended. In most cases, an inch of water per week (rain plus irrigation) should be sufficient. Applying that inch of water in one deep watering will encourage deeper rooting, which leads to stronger, healthier plants. Shallow, frequent watering, on the other hand, will lead to shallow root systems and high water loss through evaporation. With shallow watering, such as light frequent sprinkling, you actually end up wasting quite a bit of water and still don’t meet the needs of your plants.
You also have to keep in mind how long your soil retains moisture. Clay soils hold water very well, but sandy soils let the water run right through. An inch of water penetrates about six inches in a clay soil. Let your hose run for a while, then dig down with a trowel to see how deep the water went. If it is less than six inches, the hose needs to run longer.
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