We've got the truth behind certain garden watering myths
If you have a flower or vegetable garden, chances are you put on your floppy hat and garden gloves and head out every non-rainy day to do a bit of watering. But are you grabbing your hose or your sprinkler? Are you going out in the morning? The evening? The middle of the afternoon?
Chances are, you are watering the same way your parents and grandparents watered, governed by the same set of often-repeated watering rules shared by gardeners everywhere. But how many of those rules are based in fact? Are some just garden watering myths that have been repeated for so long, by so many people, that we simply assume they must be true?
If you’ve always watered based on long-held beliefs passed on through family, friends, and your neighbor across the fence, maybe it’s time to separate watering facts from fallacy and fairytales.
Popular Garden Watering Beliefs Proven Wrong
The first, and possibly the longest-held, garden watering myth is that you should not water during bright daylight because the water droplets create a lens effect which magnifies the sun and burns the foliage of your plants. Wrong! This is definitely much more fantasy than fact. During bright daylight the water evaporates quickly enough to not cause a problem for the plant leaves. In fact, this is even more true on a hot sunny day. Actually, if it’s a truly hot day, you could be doing more damage by withholding water from your plants.
A team of physicists debunked this old theory by performing a series of tests on plants. They found irrefutable evidence that the magnifying effect was not strong enough to cause any damage before the droplets evaporated. The only exception was found with some tropical, hairy-leaved plants where the hairs retained enough water for sunburn to occur.
It’s possible that this myth evolved because something IN the water, such as too much fertilizer, chlorine, or something included in tap water caused brown or yellow patches similar to burns.
The second widely held watering misconception is that plants of all types require one inch of water per week. The reality is that all plants are unique and have different watering requirements. The one and done approach to watering can undermine the growth patterns of many plants. While younger plants have shallow roots systems and may require more frequent watering, other plants may need less water per week. Over-watering some plants can actually cause them to become weak and fragile and unable to support their own weight.
The third garden watering fallacy is the popular assumption that wilting plants always mean they need more watering. When gardeners see their prized plants wilting, many of them automatically reach for the hose. But there are many other causes of wilting plants. Before adding extra water, it’s important to first check the moisture level in the soil. If you gently insert a clean stick six to twelve inches into the soil and it comes out with dirt attached, that means that there is sufficient moisture already present.
The fourth fantasy watering belief is that overhead watering, or sprinkler watering, is bad for plants. Many people only aim water at the root level of the plants due to the misconception that wetting the leaves will harm the plants. While it’s true that you conserve water by directing water flow to the base of the plants, it is not true that wetting the above foliage is harmful. In fact, in dry, windy conditions, it may be helpful for plants to be rinsed free of dust buildup that can limit necessary plant photosynthesis.
Finally, the fifth most popular watering folly is that it is wrong to water plants at dusk, or after dark. A long held belief is that plants should not stay wet overnight. The truth is that for most plants it’s beneficial to water them toward sundown because the water isn’t as quick to evaporate before the plant can absorb it. Watering near dark is especially beneficial if the water is directed toward the plant base where it has time to sink into the soil instead of being evaporated by sunlight.
For some plants, such as tomato plants, while they benefit from overnight moisture, wet leaves overnight can cause blight.
So in effect, watering in the evening is great if the water is directed at the base of the plants.
While it’s generally true that mother knows best, and grandparents are wise, when it comes to garden care beliefs, it’s beneficial to separate the popular, from the proven.