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When it comes to thirst, not all plants are created equal.

Mark Twain, when speaking of the conflicts between ranchers and farmers over water rights, observed, "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.'' An off-repeated adage of greenhouse managers when instructing new hires on the importance of correct watering practices is "the man with the (water) hose, determines the (salability) of the crop.'' Ecologists tell us that water is one of the most necessary elements on planet Earth -- if not the most important.

Several weeks ago, I briefly listed some of water's functions for growing plants. To carry this forward helpfully, we should review the rainfall amounts over the past two weeks. This will vary depending on location, but for my area we received six one-hundredths of an inch over a period of eight days followed by Arthur who was kind enough to drop nine-tenths of an inch of water on us over an 11-hour rain event.

"Almost an inch of rain, so we must be all set for a while -- right?'' Sorry to relate that Arthur, while most welcome, provided for the water requirements of plants for from three days to one week. Because of the drought conditions leading up to Arthur, his gift did not make up for the moisture deficiency of the previous week.

If you garden on sandy soil, without adding generous amounts of water-holding compost, the available water from Arthur was exhausted by Monday. Difficult-to-dig clay soil contains a huge reservoir of water and likely contains adequate moisture until the end of the week.

It is often said that plants require an inch of water a week to grow. This is not so. The water requirements of plants vary based on the temperature, the amount of sun received, the size of the plant and the stage of plant development.

The takeaway here is that trees and shrubs planted within the last three years should be well-watered once a week throughout the growing season, and those newly planted benefit from twice-weekly soaking. Most container plants benefit from daily watering and a weekly application of liquid fertilizer. Fruiting crops like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries must be kept moist while the fruit is forming and ripening. The vegetables need constant moisture to develop normally. Uneven supplies of water can cause blossom drop and fruit cracking. I'll meet you in the garden -- with a hose!

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Title Annotation:Living
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 13, 2014
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