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BINETTI: Healthy plants need right amount of water

Water, water, water is usually the work of the gardener during the dry month of August, but how much to water depends on so many factors the best tool for this job is your finger. Dig a bare finger into the soil around potted plants and water until the drainage holes flow. In the month of August don’t depend on how often a hanging basket needed water in the beginning of the summer. By now the roots have grown and the larger plants need more moisture than they did a month ago.

In the vegetable garden a soaker hose or drip irrigation system is the practical way to deliver moisture to the crops and not the weeds. Leafy plants like lettuce, cucumbers and Swiss chard require more moisture than deep rooted crops like corn, potatoes and squash.

When it comes to your lawn you have a choice. You can let the lawn “go golden,” or dormant, in the summer months and not water at all. The lawn may look dead, but the roots will survive and when the fall rains return your grass will again turn green.

Q. We are going on vacation for 10 days and want to know how we can keep our potted plants alive without water while we are gone. I am sure other gardeners have this same problem. J.S., e-mail

A. Here are some tips. Move thirsty potted plants to the shade and set them in a child’s wading pool. Fill the pool with an inch of water. Or, add drip irrigation connected to your faucet with a timer. You can also set plastic water bottles on top of the soil with pin-prick holes in the bottom of the bottle so water will slowly leak into the soil. Wrap clay pots with wet towels and secure with bungee cords. Or, the most practical of all, hire and train a neighbor or teen to water while you are gone.

Q. My hanging baskets of petunias are looking all long with bare stems and flowers just at the tips. If I cut them back there will be no blooms at all. How do people keep their hanging baskets looking good all summer long? N.C., Bonney Lake

A. A pinch and a snip goes a long way to keeping blooming baskets beautiful all summer. Lots of water and frequent fertilizer is the other demand of overflowing baskets and pots. Now is the time to be ruthless and snip off those long and lanky petunia stems even it means you are left with nothing but stumpy remains. Water, fertilize and wait and you’ll soon see new growth, fresh buds and a petunia basket that overflows with blooms just in time for the Indian summer of September.

Q. Is it best to water the lawn during the morning or hot afternoon hours? We do not have a sprinkler system, just a sprinkler that hooks up to the hose. R., Kent

A. Most plants do best when watered in the early morning hours when there is less wind and hot sun stealing the water from evaporation. Then the afternoon sun can dry the foliage before the cool night can move in to cause leaf blights and fungal infections on wet foliage. But kids, summer afternoons and a sprinkler on the lawn were made for each other. Lawns need at least one inch of water every week to stay green and it is better to water deeply and slowly once a week than it is to water a little bit every other day.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

 

 

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