Watering the Garden

It’s hot! Highs consistently into the 90s and triple-digit heat indexes are the new normal. The abundant rain we had earlier this summer has ceased. Watering has become an almost daily task.

I’ve tried just about every type of watering device ever invented. By and large, the results have been disappointing. They’re flimsy, hard-to-control, wasteful, and/or otherwise less than satisfactory.

A slow, steady rain over several hours is ideal. Short-lived summer showers mostly evaporate or run off. Longer showers enable the water to soak deeper into the root zone. The rule of thumb is an inch of water every week, depending on factors such as humidity, type of plant, and soil type — to name a few.

Hand-watering with a hose and a nozzle or wand is immensely gratifying. Unfortunately, hand-watering isn’t that helpful and may even cause harm. As with a cloudburst, the water barely penetrates the surface. Wet foliage may lead to powdery mildew and other diseases.

Sprinklers cover a larger area than hand-watering without the need to stand there with the hose. Leave the sprinkler on long enough for an empty tuna fish can to fill with water. It takes a lot longer than you might think.

Getting a sprinkler to cover only the area you intend to water is nearly impossible. Water that goes elsewhere is wasted. There’s also a lot of evaporation and runoff with sprinklers. Wet foliage and damaged flowers are also issues.

Soaker hoses have a lot going for them. Foliage stays dry, there’s less evaporation or runoff, and no damaged flowers. Covering the whole flower bed, however, can take a lot of hose.

With soakers, water pressure forces water to ooze from the porous hose. Connecting more hose to cover more area doesn’t always work. The drop in pressure with each new connection reduces the flow. The far end may get no water at all.

No one watering device meets all my needs. I hand water pots and isolated flower beds, like one under my mailbox. Sprinklers work well for the lawn. Soaker hose runs through my biggest flower bed in an attempt to prevent powdery mildew from taking out the zinnias before their time.

The forecast calls for highs well into the 90s for the next two weeks. We might get some rain toward the end of the week. I’m not optimistic. Rain has a tendency to disappear from the forecast as the day nears. Without a good shower in the next week or so, watering won’t make much difference. I’ll keep you posted.