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Master Gardener Fred Hoffman teaches you how to water plants properly and how to know when you have watered them enough.
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Chris Burrous: Everyone’s a farmer when it comes to their own backyard; try these tips for doing it home grown. Fred Hoffman: Healthy plants need just the right amount of water, so how do you know when your plants have the right amount of water? Well, c’mon I’ll show you how and save you money to boot. The number one cause of plant failure is improper watering, either too much or too little. Just don’t look at the soil surface surrounding a plant and if it’s dry add water, it’s what’s going down at the roots that really matters. And the easiest way to measure the amount of water at root level, is to use one of these, a moisture meter. Moisture meters come in all price ranges. This one happens to be less than ten dollars, and this one happens to be about eighty dollars. If you buy the inexpensive ones though, make sure it works. Stick it in a cup of water and make sure the needle moves over to wet, that’s very important. So we have this nice cordyline here, and I can see that it may look like it needs water but does it really? Let’s stick in the moisture meter and find out. During the summer, containerized plants may need to be watered every day especially if they’re on hot concrete on a hot patio. Make sure the container does have drainage holes, to allow the water some place to go. And to make the plant even cooler during the summer, put a plant stand below that container- or you can use plant feet like this. Watering a containerized plant can be a little bit tricky. If the water starts coming out immediately, it’s pulled away from the sides of the container- add more soil to fill it up. If the water doesn’t come out at all, that means you’ve got clogged drainage holes and you’ll need to clear out those drainage holes. You want to water a containerized plant until you see water coming out of the bottom; it should take a few seconds. And if you use your moisture meter in combination with this, you’ll always have a healthy plant. If you don’t have a moisture meter then dig down about 8 inches and see what the moisture is like down at root level. You can use a trowel or small shovel. The important thing is to dig down about 8 inches, that’s where most of the roots for your shrubs will be found. That’s where they’re taking up the water, so dig down and grab a handful of soil that’s at that level. If mud runs off your hand, or if it’s dust, that’s too wet or too dry. You want a moisture level where you can form a dirt clod, yet it breaks up easily with just a little bit of pressure. That’s the right moisture level for your plants. The biggest water waster in California is the backyard lawn. People tend to have their sprinklers on way too often and way too much. During the heat of the summer, sprinklers only need maybe about an inch to two inches of water per week. So how do you determine that? Put out some even bottomed containers and turn on the sprinklers for about 15 minutes. And then measure the amount of water in each of those containers. After you’ve had the sprinklers on for 15 minutes, measure the amount of water in each container. In our little test here, we have about a half inch of water which means if I watered for a half hour, I’d be putting on an inch of water a week. In central California, you might want to put on an inch and a half to two inches of water per week. The key though is deep and frequent watering. You don’t need to water your lawn more than 2 to 3 times a week to achieve your goals. You’re going to’ save money and save water by really following one simple rule, don’t water your lawn everyday- twice a week is fine.