Water Conservation Tip No. 9

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The ideal garden soil is 50 percent solid matter, 25 percent air space and 25 percent water. When it rains and rains for days on end the water-table, that is, the soil-borne water, rises until the soil is 50 percent solid matter and 50 percent water. Air is driven from the soil and plant roots are left without critical oxygen.

Some plants have adapted over the centuries to those conditions and that’s why willows, bald cypress, yaupons and other plants are native to East Texas where this happens quite often.

Other plants can’t handle poorly drained soils, even for a few days, and that’s why tomatoes wilt and Texas sage shrubs die, particularly if they’re growing in low areas and in heavy, water-retaining clay soils.

So, from that we learn …

Choose plants that are perfectly suited to your locale. Remember: "native" plants are native only where you find them growing in nature. They may not be the least bit adapted just a few miles down the road.


Some plants will do better in raised planting beds. While you can’t do that for trees and large shrubs, you can certainly help roses, vegetables, annuals, groundcovers and even smaller shrubs such as azaleas if you’ll raise their planting beds by even 2 or 3 inches.


Provide a means for excess water to escape your property and head down the ditches and storm sewers. It may involve cutting a swale or installing drains, but if it needs to be done there’s a way to do it.


Good guttering can also help, particularly if the downspouts direct the water off your property.


In the meantime, be prepared for plants to wilt the first few days that the sun pounds down on them. Those plants will have grown "soft" with all the rain and high humidity. They’ll have a reality check when temperatures zoom and humidities plummet.


The best way to know if a plant has had too much water? It will be wilted at the same time its soil is still wet. While almost any plant, especially large-leafed ones, will react that way now on a hot, sunny afternoon, damaged ones won’t rebound overnight.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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