Norris Johnston, Morgan County Master Gardeners Association


The sweltering heat of summer can be quite stressful on plants and people alike. As gardeners and lawn lovers, we must focus on the moisture needed by the plants versus the moisture provided by Mother Nature. 

Water remains one of our most precious resources and an absolute necessity for life — both for humans as well as plants, thus the need to be aware of water quality as well as quantity when it comes to caring for our plants. So, water you thinkin’ when it comes to keeping your plants’ thirst quenched?

First, a comment about water here on earth. The water supply on Earth is a “closed” system. There is no new water, only recycled and reused water. The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle, describes the movement of water (liquid, vapor, or solid) through various ecosystems where the water dissolves most everything it contacts.

The ability of water to dissolve most minerals it contacts is why it is often referred to as the universal solvent. This ability is what makes it important to plants, as water carries nutrients to plant parts that need it for growth and fruit production. However, this dissolving property also brings challenges. As responsible stewards of the planet’s water, we must be diligent in managing the accumulation of contaminants in the water supply, including chemicals for fertilization as well as pest control — remember, there is no “new” water.

Water for health! Hydrate your body when active outdoors in the summer heat. And remember your plant friends, too. Water when Mother Nature does not meet your plants’ needs. You will find that indoor plants demonstrate their need for water. The first indication of wilting is a sign to add water for a thorough soaking of the pot soil — wait for the wilting sign or feel the pot soil and avoid overwatering.

Vegetables prefer a thorough watering as opposed to frequent sprinkling — one to two inches per week is typically recommended. Lawns can either be watered or allowed to go dormant. When walking on the lawn leaves a footprint and you get the crunch sound, time to water — one inch per week is adequate. Outdoor watering should be done early in the morning for maximum effectiveness and minimum risk of disease.

Water you gonna do now? I suggest you start by practicing conservation — do not overwater as runoff carries pollutants to receiving streams. Consider collecting rainwater and recycling — go to and type “Rainwater Harvesting for Irrigation Water” in the search box for a thorough discussion of this type reuse project. Think water quality as well as quantity, especially when it comes to the application of fertilizers and pesticides — go to and type “Water Quality in the Landscape” in the search box to learn more.

Remember there is no new water! Fresh water represents about 2.5% of all water on earth so we need to do as much as possible to keep it fresh.

Norris Johnston is a member of the Morgan County Master Gardeners Association. Members write columns periodically with gardening tips.
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