Pouring water over them does not necessarily mean they are well watered

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Plants also need water in dry periods. A few rules must be observed when watering.

The grass looks rather brownish, the leaves are limp on the cherry tree and the flowers let the blossoms hang down. Garden owners and hobby gardeners cannot help but to spray the garden. There are certain rules to observe here. Some tips from master gardener Urs Deubelbeiss from the Zurich Horticultural Association.

Should I water the grass?

That depends on three things: the aesthetic requirements of the garden owner, his ecological conscience and the type of grass. In dry periods the grass gradually turns brown, but it turns green again quickly once it has rained. But then more weeds may potentially grow. "In general, the following applies: If you want a beautiful lawn, you should water it from time to time", says Deubelbeiss. But not like many people are prone to do. Spraying the lawn a little every day – this does not achieve anything. In fact, the lawn must be properly watered once or twice a week. 25 to 30 litres per square metre is preferable. That's rather a lot – and therefore ecologically even debatable, according to Deubelbeiss. "It does not look so nice, but ecologically it is better to save water", he says.

According to data from the Federal Office for the Environment, a nationwide water shortage is not expected in Switzerland. However, in some cantons, including in Thurgau, Aargau and also in several Zurich municipalities, the authorities have asked the local people to conserve water during these times. Anyone who has a flower meadow in the garden instead of the plain lawn delights not only insects and the eye, but is also not faced by the water dilemma: "For semi-natural meadows watering would be even harmful", explains Deubelbeiss. "They then grow too fast and shrink later as soon as they get less water."

Do I need to water the trees?

Trees which have reached a certain age and are well grown do not need watering, they can absorb it from deeper strata. In the worst case scenario the tree can help itself in dry periods by shedding leaves. If necessary, it starts to bud again later in the year. It is different with newly planted trees. "They are already stressed from the new location and therefore it is important that they are watered", says Deubelbeiss.

Does the hedge shrink if it has not rained for a long time?

Similar to trees the dry period is not a problem for older, deep-rooted hedge plants. In contrast, conifers and evergreen hedges are confronted with problems because they cannot shed their leaves. "Thuja or yew trees like water from time to time", says Deubelbeiss – and therefore advises not only native species such as the hornbeam for hedges. They can adapt better to the climate, manage longer without water and sprout again later.

At what time of the day should I water?

There is no getting around watering shrubs, fruit and vegetable plants. The best time for this is the early morning before the sun gets too hot – between 7.00 and 9.00 am depending on the location. This way the water on the leaves can evaporate entirely during the day and fungal diseases have fewer chances of spreading. Anyone who does not manage to water shrubs and hedges before work can also do so in the evening as soon as it is cooler. During the day the cold water is rather unpleasant for the plants. They can also "scorch" – this also applies to the lawn: "If you briefly spray the lawn at midday, it gets a shock and turns brown", says Deubelbeiss.

How do I water properly?

"A common mistake is: You think you have watered, but in reality only the top one or two centimetres are wet", says Deubelbeiss. After two hours everything has evaporated. Therefore, the following is important: Check whether the soil is actually wet – and water slowly. If the water runs off to the side because the surface is too dry, water carefully, wait and then water again. It is important that the water reaches the roots – don't pour the water over the plants from the top according to the scattergun approach, but water vegetable plants and decorative shrubs close to the stem. If necessary, a saucer-size hollow can be dug around the stem so that the water does not run off.

Can you also water too much?

In the current hot weather this is almost impossible, says Deubelbeiss. Not at all on the balcony – providing that the excess water can drain from the pot and does not build up.

Can you use drinking water for plants?

In Switzerland water is normally not a scarce commodity, but it must be cleaned and treated to become drinking water. This effort costs energy – and money. Tap water is not optimal for plants. It is better and also more environmentally friendly to collect rainwater. It is necessary to ensure that no animals can fall into the containers. Balcony gardeners can easily collect the water that they use for washing fruit and vegetables in the kitchen and use it for watering.

NZZ, Pouring water over them does not necessarily mean they are well watered: https://www.nzz.ch/panorama/tuechtig-gespritzt-ist-noch-lange-nicht-gut-gewaessert-ld.1406919, retrieved on 28.06.2019.