by Teresa Odle
I live in New Mexico, and our average annual rainfall is less than nine inches. The high desert air dries out plants quickly, especially when temperatures reach the 90s. Watering plants and lawns is essential, although also controversial.
So the first rule of watering in dry climates is to select xeric plants for certain areas of the landscape — a topic for another time. And no matter your average rainfall, try to choose plants that are indigenous to your region. These plants grow well in your climate and soil and should require less watering and overall care.
Container plants need more watering than bedded plants. A one-gallon watering can is perfect, because it holds enough to prevent repeated trips but isn’t too heavy. I keep one in my front yard and one in the back yard. We fill them up from the faucets to water herbs and tomatoes growing in containers and use saved rain water from our roof to water some of the container ornamentals.
Soil type also determines how often to water. Naturally, water drains more quickly from
sandy soil than from clay. So you may be able to go four and a half days between irrigating vegetables in clay soils, but need to water your bushes in sandy soil every day during hotter months. Heat really pulls water out of plants.
Signs of water stress include wilting, leaf rolling, color changes, burnt leaves or leaf drop. But don’t assume just because a plant looks unhealthy, it needs water. Overwatering also damages plants by rotting roots. Dig your finger into the soil; if it’s damp, your plant probably has enough water for now.
It’s best to water containers and other plants in the early evening or very early in the morning, before they become stressed.