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Water. All living things it need to live and thrive, making it one of our most valuable natural resources. Unfortunately, it's rapidly becoming one of the most endangered. Water shortages loom as growing cities and suburbs bring increased demands in concentrated areas, and droughts threaten various regions every year. Adopting efficient watering practices not only conserves water and boosts plant health, it's another way to empower kids to help protect precious resources through their work in the garden.
Mother Nature may water your garden for most of the year, but when plants are growing vigorously during summer months you may need to water frequently. Most gardens have a water source close by, but not everyone has a practical plan for getting water from spigot to soil. We hear often from garden coordinators looking for solutions to this challenge. During school breaks, most garden programs depend on volunteers who have to haul watering cans or hoses -- the irrigation option with the least up-front expense -- but scheduling and coordination can be difficult, with the bulk of the work falling on a few people. Automatic irrigation equipment provides the most flexibility, but can require a larger cash outlay and time to design and install. This article covers the pros and cons of different irrigation methods to help you make sensible choices, and provides tips about best water management practices and lesson ideas for exploring water issues. We hope this helps you work out the perfect solution to your watering woes!
Plants and Watering
Why do plants need water? Like people, many plants consist mostly of water. To visualize just how much they hold in their cells, compare a leaf of a living basil plant to one that's been dried.
Plants use water for important life processes, including photosynthesis (by which plants produce their own energy) and transpiration (evaporation of water from the leaves which cools the plant and creates pressure that moves water from roots to stems and leaves). Water also aids in the absorption of some nutrients, and does much more.
How much water do plants need? This depends on many factors: plant species, plant size, maturity level, and environment (e.g., weather, soil, other plants growing nearby). For instance, cacti are adapted to desert conditions and need very little water, while water lilies live fully submerged in water. Older and larger plants often need more water to sustain healthy growth, and young plants with shallow roots need frequent watering as the soil near the surface dries quickly. Plants in cool, humid and, shady environments will lose water to transpiration more slowly than those exposed to sunny, warm, arid, and windy conditions. Ultimately, you, your young gardeners, and your volunteers will learn how much water your plots need based on the variables specific to your site.
Anyone who has gardened with kids know that they like to water --...