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Gardening: Tips for watering the garden in July

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These Gerber daisies wilt due to lack of water. Christopher Burtt/Provided

When it comes to gardening, water is one of the most important aspects. Not enough water for plants can lead to desiccation, and too much water can cause root systems to rot and disease to spread.

For every plant in the landscape, water plays an integral role in the health and function of the plant itself. Water aids in the movement of nutrients and is crucial to the structure of the cells themselves.

There are a whole range of issues associated with water, but if understood correctly, it can be one of the simplest solutions.


This coleus plant wilts from heat stress. Christopher Burtt/Provided

The summer can be a more difficult time for plants as the increased heat can lead to more water being required for the plants.

For most plants, water is absorbed through the root system and makes its way through the plant where it eventually is expelled through the leaves. During times of more heat, water is evaporated much quicker, which leads to more water being needed from the roots.

Key details

Watering in the garden can be tricky, but it is critical to remember these few key details. Always check before you water, and remember that most established plants may not need water at all.

If it has rained any significant amount, avoid watering. Most plants may only need an inch of rain a week.

Also remember to avoid overhead watering if it can be helped. Sprinklers can be easier to use, but overhead watering can lead to disease.

And lastly, water at the appropriate time. Avoid watering after midmorning as plants take up water better during the cooler part of the morning. Also, don’t have water on any leaves overnight, which can harbor fungus.

Make a plan

The first step to watering properly is planning.


Black spot on roses. Avoid overhead watering as it can lead to disease. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Before a plant is ever installed, it is essential to understand the needs of the specific plant. Each plant has certain environmental conditions in which it will thrive. If planted in incorrect conditions, plants will struggle and require much more effort than many may be willing to put into said plant.

If the right plant is chosen for a certain area, the amount of supplemental water should be reduced significantly after establishment.

Once established, most trees and shrubs, and even turf, should not require any additional water during normal weather conditions.

First, find out your soil composition. Sandy loam soil tends to drain much quicker than heavier clay.

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Second, watch the areas during rain events to see how quickly they drain, or if they hold water for extended periods of time.

Third, know the sunlight for the area, as different plants require different amounts of sunlight.

Check plants daily

When you first select any plant, knowing the specific conditions needed for said plant, keep in mind there is an establishment period. When something is first planted, the roots will need time to grow and find its own source of water.


Branches on this boxwood plant have died due to improper watering. Christopher Burtt/Provided

This is when supplemental water is needed the most. But at the same time, it is imperative to know how to wean a plant off this supplemental water, as you want the specific plant to grow roots in search of its own water.

The best method is to check the plant daily to make sure that it is receiving enough water and the soil around the new root system does not completely dry out as this will take water from the roots.

Moisture gauges can be extremely helpful in determining the moisture content around the roots, especially for smaller plants.

Having a rain gauge goes a long way towards proper monitoring of the water needed for the garden. Keep in mind that just because the leaves are wilted on a plant does not mean that the plant needs water and could just be a sign of heat stress or a possible disease.

Conserve water

There are many ways to help conserve water in the garden, but one of the simplest is mulching.

There are many forms of mulch, so it helps to research the benefits and downfalls of each.


Cercospora leaf spot on Hydrangea is perhaps the most common disease seen on this ornamental during the months of July through October. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Most home landscapes will use organic mulches such as pine straw or wood chips.

Not all plants will prefer inorganic mulches such as rocks or rubber, so keep this in mind when planning the garden.

Picking the right kind of mulch depends on the plant as well as the person’s desires for the garden.

Another way to help conserve water is to amend your soil.

This is done through the encouragement of microbial growth and the increase of organic matter within your soil composition.

The more organic matter within your soil, the better the soil absorbs and holds the water, allowing for longer periods between the need for more water.

Christopher Burtt is the Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. He can be reached by email at

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