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Re: watering practices

i always thought the purpose of irrigation was to keep a properly aerated root zone moist [not wet] without regard to time of day or night. whether that root zone is in a pot or the ground or, for that matter, crawling up a tree is not terribly important. what's important is whether it works [that is, the plants thrive] according to the perception of the grower.

At 06:52 PM 4/4/03 -0500, you wrote:

         I finally got around to reading the AG article you mentioned last
week.  Two thoughts:

        I think it again demonstrates the importance of empirical testing.  A
priori philosophizing about gardening just doesn't get it done.  Previous
explanations of why watering in the morning was best certainly sounded
reasonable, but are proven wrong.  The results of 60-70% better plant growth
are certainly dramatic, and demonstrate the value of controlled tests.
Gardening is rampant with examples of misguided advice that previously
appeared to make sense.  The practice of covering pruning cuts with wound
dressing is a perfect example.  A chemical covering that would keep insects
and pathogens out while the wound healed sounded quite sensible.  But when it
was discovered that the practice seriously slowed the healing process, the
practice was discarded.

        Which leads me to me second thought: How can Warren say "home
gardeners should benefit from switching to afternoon watering, too"?  His
research was focused on containerized plants in the commercial nursery
industry.  As you know, this now generally involves soilless media which
allows for extremely rapid drainage.  The media generally dries out very
quickly, and so it is easy to understand why watering in the midafternoon on a
hot day would be particularly beneficial.  The same practice should work with
containerized plants in the home garden, but that does not necessarily mean it
will help with our plants that are in the ground.  Most of our soils drain
much more slowly than containers, and the soil buffers the effect of heat,
particularly when it is properly mulched.  Further, the soil several inches
down can remain moist for days, which is not the case with containers.  If the
plant is well rooted it will not dry out nearly so quickly.

        Thus I suspect one would not find the same dramatic improvement.
Moreover, the value of early morning watering is that far less water is lost
in the atmosphere.  If you are using sprinklers, on a hot afternoon as much as
half the water can be lost to evaporation if you are watering in the heat of
the day.  It seems, therefore, that morning watering may still be better for
plants that are not in containers.  Again, however, we won't really know until
someone does the proper studies.  But it seems Mr. Warren is jumping to
conclusions that are not yet supported by the necessary empirical

        I suspect you should keep on getting up early on Saturdays.

                                      Josh Haskell

                                      Ohio -- Zone 5

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