It’s hard to overestimate the importance of watering. It’s my favorite thing to do in the garden, and not just because I can do it with a drink in my hand. I would rate it as the most important gardening chore, followed closely by mulching. Those two tasks are probably the only two things you should never skip, and skipping tasks is my specialty. The title of Andy Radin’s article, “The Art of Watering” from issue 175 is right on: It is an art one must learn. Countless tools and gadgets are available to help you, and I have tried pretty much all of them. Here’s my take on the three most common watering methods.
• THE HOSE. Waving the hose back and forth over your plants is relaxing after a hard day at work, and it’s easily done with a drink in hand. Cycling through a sprayer’s settings can be fun (“Now let’s see what ‘angle shower’ can do!”), but before long, the sprayer will start leaking and spraying from all the wrong areas. I recommend a watering wand because you can water your containers without bending over and risking a spilled drink. Watering with a hose, however, is rarely effective (and not just because of the drinking), and you might actually be harming your plants. Studies have shown that shallow watering encourages shallow rooting, preventing plants from properly establishing themselves in the landscape. Rating: three limes in a gin and tonic.
• THE SPRINKLER. I can never place my sprinkler so that it’s watering more of my plants and less of the lawn, driveway, and our patio chairs. Adjustments require constant walking back and forth from the hose faucet and create an unacceptable risk of getting water in my drink. As far as effectiveness goes, I’m never sure how much water is actually reaching the soil. Rating: one lime in a watery gin and tonic.
• DRIP IRRIGATION. It’s easy to install, puts the water only where you want it, adapts to almost any situation, and delivers water the way plants like it. You can run your drip irrigation with a drink in one hand while sitting and not having to get up to adjust anything. It’s easy to forget that your system is on, so one is fortunate to have a spouse who says things like “Why are you sitting there with a drink? I thought you were watering your plants.” A quick assurance that you were just finishing up gets you out of any potential jams. Rating: five limes in a big red cup filled with gin and tonic.
Of course, any watering method is contingent upon having enough water to use on your plants. With droughts becoming more pervasive and more persistent, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of using water wisely.
—Steve Aitken, editor