Tips on getting water down to the roots
Although not native to Central Texas, the heat-hardy crinum does well this time of year. Part of the amaryllis or lily families (USDA says amaryllis, but the Austin-based Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says lily), the showy blooms love sun, but the bulb-propagating plants also love water (thus the common name of swamp or river lilies.) Blogger and KLRU’s ‘Central Texas Gardener’ producer Linda Lehmusvirta revels this month in her blooms and talks about soil and watering tips.
Typically, my crinums bloom the first week of July. This year, “Ellen Bosanquet” jumped the gun in June but returned this week to avoid confusing the garden diary too much.
I know some of you wonder, “Is my crinum ever going to bloom?” Believe me, they take their sweet time. The pink one waited seven years or so to make its debut. Several others are paying their rent with lovely foliage for a few more years.
We’re all rejoicing with the rain that’s spared us last summer’s misery. For sure, rain is the secret ingredient that we can’t provide on demand. But the first best ingredient is the soil. We can’t control rainfall, but we can improve our soil. Ultimate- ly, our success starts underground.
And, what is the difference between soil, compost and mulch, and how do they work together? How does that relate to our plants?
Because these are questions I often get, last week on “Central Texas Gardener” George Altgelt from Geo Growers connected the dots with host Tom Spencer. (To view the episode, go to www.klru.org/ ctg. Today’s TV episode at noon and 4 p.m. will deal with useful wild plants.)
It’s perfect timing because now is when we need to renew our beds for fall’s vegetables and ornamentals. Our soil needs a little boost after its depletion from spring’s energy and summer’s heat.
You’ll see why Julie Donie and Alexa Villalobos from the Fertile Ground Gardens landscape company are confirmed soil-huggers. Compost is their secret ingredient for thriving old roses and even camellias that frame a renovated historic home.
Because we’re back into a dry spell, Daphne Richards of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service explains how to water. Sounds simple, huh? Nope. Even experienced gardeners make this mistake.
Here are some tips for how to know when you’ve watered enough from “Central Texas Gardener”:
The key to knowing how much to water is knowing your soil. If you have heavy clay soil, you water less often. If you have sandy or rocky soil, you will need to water more often.
But whatever your soil, when you water by hand, let the water pool up (or bubble up) around each of the areas that you’re watering. Move on to another area, and water it until it bubbles up. Then come back and water your first plants again. Go back to the second area. You might need to do this three times.
You want the water to soak into the soil. If it’s just watering the top, it won’t make it to the roots you want to nourish.
Larger plants, such as new shrubs, will take more time than small young plants.
The best test: Stick your finger in the soil to see how deep it is wet. You want to get the water deep into the soil to encourage roots to grow deep. Also, the water on top will evaporate quickly. Spend a little time to get the water deep into the soil.
And get to know your plants. Just because they wilt at 4 p.m. doesn’t mean they need water. Check the soil to see if it’s still moist. Some plants are especially sensitive to too much water and will rot.
In the morning, check to see if they are still wilting. If so, give them a deep drink, again allowing the water to pool or bubble and settle in.
Crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ bloomed early this year for ‘Central Texas Gardener’ producer Linda Lehmusvirta.