Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: What to do (and not) when it comes to watering

Try a rain barrel: simply dip a spray can into the surplus when you want to water plants.
Try a rain barrel: simply dip a spray can into the surplus when you want to water plants. AP file

Summer time means back to the basics when it comes to watering your garden and landscape. Conserving water will not only lower your summer water bill but is also good for the environment.

Here’s what to do (and not) when watering.

▪ Do check the soil first so you don’t overwater. Poke a finger into the soil of potted plants and water when the top one-to-two inches is dry.

▪ Don’t set up a sprinkler system to come on every day and water the lawn. This is a big waste of water. Lawns in our area need just one inch of water a week . Watering once a week trains the grass roots to go deep into the soil in search of moisture. Daily watering keeps lawn roots right at the surface.

▪ Don’t let containers sit in saucers of their own drainage water.

▪ Do slide plastic water bottle caps, tiles or pot feet under containers to raise them up off the ground just a bit. This will help to keep the drainage hole unblocked.

▪ Do keep thirsty plants such as hanging baskets of fuchsias close to the house and out of the hot sun so they will be easier to water.

▪ Don’t waste the water that drips out from the bottom of your hanging basket. Place a container garden underneath your baskets to recycle the excess water and keep your patio and decks dry.

▪ Don’t over water your vegetables or you can sacrifice flavor. Dig into the soil and water when the top few inches of soil is no longer moist or dark in color.

▪ Don’t wet the foliage of squash, cucumbers and other large leafed crops if you can help it. Wet leaves especially at night can encourage blights and fungus infections.

▪ Do invest in a soaker hose that delivers water slowly right near the roots of vegetables and flowers. This keeps the foliage dry and prevents the loss of water from evaporation.

▪ Do plan a landscape with the most drought resistant plants farthest from your water source. Many trees, shrubs and perennials can go all summer on rainfall alone once they are established.

▪ Don’t water tender annuals with hot water gushing out from a hose left lying in the warm sun. Use a watering can to collect the sun warmed water and then place it in the shade so it can cool. Young plants and tender seedlings also hate very cold water. Plants prefer tepid water.

▪ Do use a mulch on top of the roots of all your plants to conserve water. A mulch not only shades the soil and seals in moisture but an organic mulch of wood chips, bark or compost also improves the soil and blocks out weeds.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.