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Watering tips from an OSU pro

Sustainable watering involves more than an efficient delivery system, says Weston Miller, community and urban horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Efficient watering begins when plants are first put into the ground. The better the soil, the less water they’ll need, Miller says. Roots grow deeper and get more moisture if compost has been placed deep from the start. Woody mulch on top helps reduce evaporation from the soil.

A vegetable garden should get one or two waterings a week, depending on how recently it was planted; one inch of water a week should do from mid-May through September.

Another key is starting with the right plants, Miller says. Rhododendrons do better in partial shade, not full sun. You’ll find yourself applying too much water if they get too much sun.

by: FILE PHOTO - Watering TipsMiller advises starting to water early in the season, because soil loses its ability to retain water once it gets too dry. “If you let things dry out, it’s really hard to catch up,” he says.

Frequent, light waterings are a bad idea because plants will develop shallow root systems, which encourage root rot as the roots end up concentrated in the moister soil closer to the surface.

Evening watering leaves plants wet overnight, which encourages fungus to grow. Midday watering allows for too much evaporation and the droplets can act as a magnifying glass and lead to leaves being burned. Early morning is best.

— Peter Korn