For plant lovers and gardeners in Ellis County, taking care of plants and flowers will become more challenging as the heat index continues to rise. Ellis County Master Gardener Maureen Nitkowski provided some watering tips for preserving plants and flowers during the heat.

“Depending on whether the garden is established or not will determine how frequently plants should be watered,” Nitkowski said. “In the first year, to stimulate root growth, the plant has to be watered quite frequently.”

She added that soil preparation is an absolute must in order to ensure the proper moisture the roots of plants receive.

“Another important ingredient for proper plant nutrition is compost,” Nitkowski said. “Compost holds and releases water, and it allows air to maintain in the clay. Roots of plants must have air.”

Nitkowski suggested several types of irrigation systems to use when watering plants and flowers.

“I would encourage people to use either a drip irrigation watering system or soaker hoses,” she said. “Soaker hoses are great to use, and keep soil cooler and more capable of retaining water.”

She said all the gardener needs to do was to wind the soaker hose around the plants and place mulch on the top.

She also said if people are still unsure about when to water their plants, the plants will speak for themselves.

“Plants will tell you by their looks whether they need water or not,” Nitkowski said. “If they have that withered or droopy look to them, that usually means they need water.”

She added not to allow that to be the only way to gauge the needs of the plants, because plants that have been overwatered tend to have the same reaction. She said another tool that has been very instrumental in determining when a plant needs to be watered is the gardener’s index finger.

“The best indicator that a plant needs to be watered is your index finger,” she said. “The water should have a good six-inch penetration into the soil. If you have watered efficiently, you’ll be able to test it that way.”

Nitkowski said if the plant or garden has been established for a while, it is best to use a slow irrigation system. She said once a week is all that’s necessary for watering effectively and efficiently.

For more information concerning plants and gardens, contact the AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or email them at ellis-tx@tamu.edu.

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