The most common water issue I get questions about has to do with tomatoes. Once tomatoes are established, they need deep, infrequent watering. As overwatering will produce lush plants with few tomatoes, it is best to not place water-thirsty plants near your tomato patch.
Another common problem is the splitting of melons and pumpkins. This usually occurs from uneven watering. The easiest way to minimize the risks of uneven watering is to put your garden’s water supply on a timer.
Landscapes can present the same troubles. Japanese maples, birches and hydrangeas love frequent watering, while oaks, olives, oleanders and most pines can’t tolerate the same amount of water.
Long-term, inadequate watering can sometimes be confused with other disorders, such as sunburn or wind injury.
In heavy or compacted soils, light watering doesn’t always allow the water to reach the roots. Conversely, over-watering in heavy or compacted soil can cause the roots to receive too little air. That is why those of us who garden in heavy soil should always till or double-dig and add plenty of amendment to loosen the soil. This allows water and air to reach the roots.
Water stress can cause wilted or blotchy leaves, gradual defoliation, bark falling off, sap flowing from wounds, shriveled or discolored roots, early fall color change, slow or no growth, shoot or branch dieback and many other symptoms.
There are ways to minimize the risk of water stress in your landscape. Learn the water needs of your plants, and try to accommodate them accordingly. When choosing plants, consider their water needs and place them near other plants with the same requirements. Check your irrigation systems, too; sometimes sprinkler heads and timers can malfunction.
• University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for Heather Hamilton can be sent to email@example.com.