The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Gardening to Distraction: Water, water everywhere, I hope!

  • As I was watching snow falling earlier this week, I was trying to recall last summer when my plants, especially the potted ones, struggled to stay upright.
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  • As I was watching snow falling earlier this week, I was trying to recall last summer when my plants, especially the potted ones, struggled to stay upright.
    I was glad I had added compost the winter before and let it settle in before hand tilling. The compost, mixed in with soil topped with straw, helped to nicely retain moisture, even in those extended record hot weeks of temperatures above 90 degrees, when plants stopped setting blooms just to survive.
    Not only did hot temperatures start a couple of months earlier last year but the continued drought made it hard for even native plants to pull through. One of the local nursery owners said to me we won't fully know the extent of the damage until later this spring.
    In the meantime, I am pursuing my dream of having a garden irrigation system, although a colleague said it looks more like I'm dumpster diving.
    I have started to get picky about what I pull out of our plastic bottle recycling bin. First I was collecting empty half gallon rectangular jugs; now I'm fishing for green soda bottles with dimples.
    The idea is to sink plastic bottles around my garden so either I, and hopefully rain, can take water deep into the subsoil. Although I saw a lot of people trying to water their gardens with sprinklers last year, the water was evaporating the minute it hit the top of the arc. In hot, drought conditions, water needs to get deep into the ground to give roots a long drink. If roots, and surrounding soil, stay hydrated, some plants can survive droughts even if their top foliage has died back.
    After some experimenting, I have found the dimpled 16 oz plastic soda bottles nicely fit sunk into the middle of my deck pots, although I'm still testing how many holes work best.
    My first bottle had teeny tiny holes that quickly sealed themselves with soil. The next bottle was riveted with holes, which meant water poured out almost as soon as I added water. I also came awfully close to adding a few dimples to my own hand so go slow if you decide to try this.
    By burying punctured plastic bottles prior to planting, I now also have a conduit to get water deep into the ground without damaging shallow-rooted plants.
    Last year, I watered by plunging a garden hose into pots to get water as deep as I could but that meant damaging some top plants in the process.
    The larger, half gallon bottles with small holes are now buried in raised beds in my toy garden.
    When we had temperatures in the 80s earlier this month, I moved a few rogue plants back into the strawberry bed, then watered through the buried plastic bottles.
    Page 2 of 2 - As I looked back at the raised strawberry bed, I could see one side was darker than the side without water so moisture was moving nicely underground. Maybe now those roving strawberries will want to stay!
    Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com
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