A must-have gardening tool

If you garden in an area where drought is a common occurrence, or the summers are hot, you know how difficult it can be to keep the garden watered adequately. You water in the morning, and by that evening the plants can be looking wilted. Even if you have an irrigation system of some sort, it still takes a lot of water to keep the garden going.

Over the years I’ve learned to amend the soil with compost to help with water retention–lots of organic material makes the soil happy and water doesn’t evaporate as quickly. Mulching on top also helps greatly by blocking out weeds, keeping the soil cooler and keeping the moisture there longer.

However, I noticed something the other day. I watered my windowsill herbs, which I have growing in clear containers. I gave them a good watering–or so I thought. Glancing at the containers an hour later, I noticed only the top inch of soil was wet, while the roots that had grown to the bottom of the container were dry. It took a couple of more waterings to get the moisture all the way down where it needed to be. And that got me thinking about the garden.

Sure enough, after watering the garden, I dug down and found only about the top inch or so of soil was wet–anything below that wasn’t. You want to encourage deep root growth for strong plants, but you also need to sustain those roots.

So, what’s the must-have gardening tool I just discovered?

I have a Ross root feeder I picked up a couple of years ago. If you don’t know what it is, Google images for it. Basically it’s used for fertilizing trees and getting that fertilizer down at the roots. You put the fertilizer spike in the plastic chamber, attach the hose, shove the metal rod into the ground around the drip line of the tree and turn it on. I just realized it is an awesome tool for watering your garden plants, with no need for the fertilizer spike. Just hook it to the hose, shove it about 12 inches into the ground and turn it on. Go around the perimeter of the plants doing this, and you’ve given the plant the equivalent of a springtime thunderstorm dowsing of water. It doesn’t harm the delicate roots, helps aerate the soil, and most importantly gets that water where it needs to be without wasting any. Do this, and the plants will be good for several days.

I’ve noticed a huge difference in the plants, especially the tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. Whereas before by the end of the day they’d be looking listless because of the heat, now they’re perkier than ever, and more importantly producing more.

Depending on where you shop, you can pick one up for around $25, or you can order one online. Trust me–if you are dealing with heat/drought, this will be one of the best investments you will ever make.

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