Roses forum→A watering question-your opinions, please!

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Tuscany, Italy
Jun 30, 2020 6:54 AM CST
Watering is one of the biggest problems for me. My garden, here in Tuscany, Italy, is a 20 minute drive from my home, is without running water or electricity,in the midst of woods, so only new implants recieve artificial irrigation-the rest all have to get by on rainfall.I harvest rain water or else have to bring it in from a fountain in a town . Most roses do splendidly,though only recently have I begun to try floribundas, for example; I have yet to see if these will accept this regime as well as OGRs, climbers,etc manage to do.
This year we've been very lucky here, weather-wise. June was really nice-it rained on a regular basis,and I never had to water at all. But that all stopped recently; it got hot. The last day of rain was June 17th.
Yesterday I went out there with my moisture-measuring meter,and tested the soil around the new implants (about 25 roses and 5 trees, etc). Only 8 registered as being on the dry side-4 of these were trees and a clematis Montana,so I watered these. The rest registered as being damp, and many as actually wet,though as usual the soil surface is hard as a brick and dry-I have a lot of heavy clay, which tends to do this as soon as it gets hot out. I don't know how accurate these moisture meters are, but I must say that the appearance of the plants did tend to confirm what the meter read-i.e., one of the roses that registered as dry had, in fact, dropped many of it's leaves and seemed headed for dormancy. I must emphasize that I do NOT expect or even desire that my plants bloom once the typical Meditteranean summer drought hits-in fact I de-bud all the new implants . I want my plants to root deeply and learn from the start how to resist in drought. Most of these plants had been planted outside last October/November,so they've been in the ground at least 7 months already.
So now I'm wondering how to act. Last year, I did start watering at the beginning of July, even though most of the new implants did register as having damp soil -BUT the weather was vastly different that year. May had been pretty cool and rainy, but June was totally dry and extremely hot. Furthermore,I had put out those plants in mid-to-late December,so it seemed wise to start watering. I am planning to measure the soil moisture again next week,of course, but I'd really like to hear other gardeners' opinions on how they might regulate themselves if they were in my position...
Name: David Tillyer
New York City (Zone 7b)
Jun 30, 2020 7:05 AM CST
You've come to the right place for information.
We have many experts here. I'm not one of them.
I'm a mere amateur, but I think that since you do not
have convenient access to water, your roses must
to the conditions. This means, of course, that not all
the plants will survive in the conditions.
I would love to see your garden in the woods in
Tuscany. Buono fortuno!
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
Jun 30, 2020 7:12 AM CST
I probably don't get as hot or dry as you but the year I was sick my roses got zero watering. July and August can be very hot and dry here and I couldn't water at all so they had to just survive. Surprisingly, they did! I would stick with your metering. It seems to be working out well so why change it.
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
Jun 30, 2020 8:06 AM CST
Have you considered stamp collecting as an alternative to gardening?

Just kidding! Big Grin

Actually, I greatly admire your dedication under challenging circumstances. Given my love of roses, it sounds like you're doing just the sort of thing I would do if I were in your position (i.e., plant roses in spite of the lack of available water, even though that's what they need most).

That being said, there is one thing that puzzles me about your approach. You said that you test the soil around the new plantings for moisture, and that while the soil beneath the surface can be moist, the soil at the surface can be hard and dry as a brick due to clay. Do you not amend the soil with peat moss, compost or manure, and mulch it so that it remains friable? I would think that would help the soil capture and distribute any rainfall, or even facilitate your own manual watering.
Name: Mike
Long Beach, Ca.
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Roses Region: California Hummingbirder Farmer
Daylilies Cat Lover Bulbs Butterflies Birds Garden Ideas: Level 1
Jun 30, 2020 8:10 AM CST
I agree
Tuscany, Italy
Jul 1, 2020 11:04 AM CST
Thanks, all! Having grown roses out at my land for more than 20 years now,I've learned that they are amazingly drought tolerant- or at least amazingly tolerant of the mediterranean-style "drought",by which I mean basically no rain at all during the summer. (Thank Heaven we still do get rain during the autumn and winter). The fact is that sweeping rules just don't always work when it comes to Nature, for example, that old turkey that decrees solemnly that "plants need an inch of water per week". If that were true, all of Italy would be a desert. Every year I get a little better at soil preparation-could it possibly be that I have actually managed to achieve "moisture-retentive soil", at least in some areas of my garden? I confess I'm also a wee bit concerned that ,if I go ahead and water anyway, they'll be getting too much. I say this because I have noticed yellowing of leaves and chlorosis on a few,something which I don't think ever happened before,in all these years, and one Italian site said that this is a symptom of over-watering. I have also noticed this in several of my potted roses, which I was basically watering ever other day, automatically,without testing the soil. When I did start testing,they did register-to my amazement-as being much, much more humid than I would've imagined. But the pots are another story...
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
Jul 1, 2020 11:07 AM CST
I find there is a huge difference in how quickly soil will dry out in a terra-cotta pot, as opposed to a glazed pot. The terra-cotta is porous and evaporative in nature, whereas glazed pots are effectively non-porous and retain moisture much longer.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
Jul 1, 2020 8:18 PM CST
Bart, if you are using pots with adequate drainage holes (and no trays underneath!) and a good potting soil it is almost impossible to over water them. Excess water will simply drain away.

I got rid of all my terra cotta pots. They're terrible for roses. The terra cotta sucks the water away from the soil and holds it from the rose while it evaporates away. Besides that they weigh a ton, even empty, but filled with wet soil and a full grown rose, yikes! You need Hercules to move them even on the wheeled trolleys, lol! Also, I don't know what kind of winters you have but here it gets well below freezing for long periods of time. Anything clay, ceramic or glass freezes and cracks. I lost some roses in the beginning because of that. Now all my pots are that light weight, freeze proof foam/resin/plastic kind. I also found that the double walled ones have great insulating properties.
Tuscany, Italy
Jul 2, 2020 3:10 AM CST
All of my terracotta pots have been converted into ollas for my garden. They are much more aesthetically pleasing than the plastic ones but way, way too impractical. My potted roses are all in those black plastic nursery pots; they are all waiting to be put out in the garden in the autumn. Of course I have far too many ,and probably the drainage could be better; I have no idea if the potting soil counts as "good" or not. Fact is that I think I have been over-watering, since the soil in the lower half of some of the pots remains wet, whilst the stuff on the surface is dry. From now on I'm not buying any more roses,unless they are ones that I really, really want.If it's true that "life is reached by over-reaching" i sure as heck have "reached life", lol! Problem is, once fall rolls around, I tend to forget the hell of summer and lose all control,so I must repent and reform.
At our old house,I couldn't grow roses in pots well at all; during the summer there was full shade until very late in the afternoon; roses hated it. So I used to plant bare-roots out directly in the garden. Many survived and thrived, but I also lost many, especially since global warming ruined Italian summers . Now, at this house, we have a nice big terrace that is perfect for roses-morning sun, afternoon shade. It's much easier to buy bare-roots and grow them on in pots for their first season or more so that they have a decent root system before they go out to brave the open garden. Problem is, roses all grow at different rates,depending on the variety and the quality of the individual plant. Some grow steadily and vigorously,and it's obvious that they are ready to move on to the garden. Others are slower to start,and need to stay in pots for more than one season-and this is where I start to screw up. I lose track of how long these slower ones have been in their pots,they get neglected in favour of the ones that develop quickly,etc. Worse yet is when I make the mistake of thinking that a plant could stand to be re-potted, only to find out that in reality it's top growth had vastly exceeded it's root development and I lose precious, fragile baby roots in the process of discovering the truth.
Tuscany, Italy
Jul 12, 2020 5:51 AM CST
Ok,update on my watering issues out at my land. Last Friday I returned and measured the moisture levels again,watering those that were dry. Even though the soil of Heidi Klum measured as wet deep down, I watered it anyway, since the upper layer is dry and I don't think that HK is very vigorous. I'll have to go back this week and water some more, probably even start getting water. Boy, do I hate summer!
Anyway my question is about a beautiful Karin Schade rose called Edith. The soil measures as "wet",and the plant is still covered in leaves (many of my roses drop their leaves at this season),but these leaves are very light green, and the younger ones are chlorotic. Now, since this is a new implant, I realize that it's root system isn't developed enough to nourish the plant properly just yet. I did cultivate the soil at it's base, and added mulch,but am wondering if it might be a good idea to give it a dose of a generic liquid fertilizer-one that is intended for green plants, since I don't want to encourage flowering; I just want to help the chlorosis. Does this sound like a reasonable idea? Fact is , I have zero experience with roses getting too much water. I think the rains and the heavy clay have created a situation where the soil is quite moist deep down (in some areas ; the soil is very uneven in my garden, with some areas being very heavy clay, others practically sandy...),so I don't want to make things worse for Edith...

Jul 25, 2020 9:47 PM CST
The folks in Bermuda catch the rain and store it in big tanks for later usage. Could you do something like that with a valve/timer set to open/close as you see fit. If you ran 1/4" hose to the plants WITHOUT emitters you wouldn't have to worry about the emitters freezing or water pressure to make them work. Most timers can run a whole season on one 9 volt battery. If you put two of batteries in parallel you would be assured it wouldn't fail. Maybe have more than one storage tank.

From the valve unit split the output then those two outputs split again until you have enough outputs to cover all of your plants. (ie. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc etc) Once the water is turned on each output would receive the same amount of water no matter how long the 1/4" hoses are to each plant.
You could do the splitting using 'T's at the tank where the timer would be located. Just locate the tank so the hose runs are not that long… lol

Turn it on and time how long it takes to fill a gal jug with water. Reset the valve/timer to open and close based on that time it take to output the amount of water that you desire.

Depending on how much rain fall you could collect and store would limit how long you let the system run each day(s). Maybe once a week would be better than nothing….

May take some figuring out but you may just be able to water your roses all season long.

Not the best instructions above but give it some though as anything can be improved…. have fun.
Tuscany, Italy
Jul 26, 2020 3:58 AM CST
Thank you, Toolbelt! I do have rain-storage tanks; my old roof-for- collecting rain water fell down however (old age and never very solid to begin with) a couple of years ago, and due to health issues I wasn't able to replace it until early this summer, when my DH and DS came out to our land with me and helped me to put up this roof thingie that I bought on Amazon. It wasn't designed for rain-water harvesting,so I still have to tweak it around before it will be useful,but right now it's just too hot and miserable to be able to get stuff done out there.
I often toy with the idea of an automatic watering system. I think my main worry is that my garden is very steep; everything slope downward,so I wonder if it would be possible for an automatic system to distribute water evenly. Years ago,when I was a noob, I bought soaker hoses,since they work with very, very little water pressure, but I didn't have the guts to leave the water running long enough, so they didn't work properly-the roses' roots all curved UPWARDS to the soil surface! So I've been reluctant to sink more money into a watering system. I did see one on the Meilland site that seems very simple and low-tech,and since it only costs about 40 euros, I might decide to experiment with that and I REALLY like your idea, but I think that as long as I keep on puting in new roses I'll be stuck watering by hand,in order to be sure that these new guys are definitely getting what they need.
If all goes well, I guess my longish-term plan would be to put out another 23 roses and 2 trees next fall; that will really diminish my pot ghetto,and in subsequent years constantly reduce the quantity of new plants that require deep watering,and limit myself mostly to adding ground-covers/companion plants. At that point I maybe could really use an automatic watering system,since I'd only be concerned with maintanance. You are so right-this is supposed to be fun!

Jul 26, 2020 8:02 AM CST
Leaving the 1/4" hose open is the best way but you could add variable on/off valves to control the amount of water each plant receives.
Here is a hand drawn -- before I've had my morning coffee.... of a system that your DS could install for you.

Have fun....
Thumb of 2020-07-26/Toolbelt68/feda7f

Tuscany, Italy
Jul 29, 2020 10:23 AM CST
Thank you so much, Toolbelt. I may very well try it, someday; I'd install it myself, I only needed help with the roofie thing because it was heavy and big, and my upper-body strength is nowhere close to that of a man, especially a young one.
My garden is at my land, which is about a 20-minute drive from my home; this is the reason I need this roofie thing to collect water, but I think this is another reason why I'm reluctant to try a new system out until I've reached the point of only watering for maintanence.
Back to the discussion of pots. I get this odd impression that, in spite of the intense and disgusting heat wave ,my potted roses need LESS watering than they did back in May and June; this is not the first year I've gotten this impression. Anyone else have the experience of roses being a bit less needy later on in the season?

Jul 30, 2020 1:32 PM CST
Bart, glad you liked it. I show all of the divisions mounted on one piece of plywood but you could mount posts in the garden at various locations then run a 1/4 inch hose to the post. Also, on the 1/2" black hose you could make many taps so you could run lines to the various posts. You could also just run one 1/2" hose around the garden tapping off at the various posts with the 1/4" hose.

Each set of 'T's doubles the number of outputs so by keeping the beginning number low you end up with fewer outputs that need Goof Plugs…

Also, remember that dripper require pressure to work (40lbs) which you won't have so keep the ends open.

Here is a diagram showing 8 lines of equal output. The back flow preventer would not be needed.
Thumb of 2020-07-30/Toolbelt68/f8f2ce

Aug 4, 2020 11:44 AM CST
Hi - I have tried a few different watering methods, and now, I would not be without an automatic system - you can make it very complicated and specific if you want. I find it actually fun to design and tinker with my systems...

But - one observation I have that might make a difference for you, is that I have found that the roots grow very differently depending upon the frequency and volume of water delivered. Mostly I get pretty shallow roots, and water pretty frequently. I have found that the less often you water, the deeper the roots go, as long as you put in a good amount of water. Not exactly rocket science - but if you want really deep roots, send the water down deeply, and don't water too often.

I also have played a lot with soil composition - in most of my gardens drainages has been an issue, and I have used raised beds - some on top of clay - these ones got deep roots unless I water every 2 days.... I have used a variety of soils, most successful was 30% washed sand and 70% mushroom compost. That dries out reasonably quickly.

I have tried making a sprinkler system that only watered when a water sensor said it was dry - I have only done a bit of experimenting with this, and have had it fail quite a bit, not ready for "prime time" yet. But you obviously put a lot of energy into this with manual measurements - that is admirable!
Tuscany, Italy
Aug 6, 2020 3:49 AM CST
Thank you for your replies! John,you have understood perfectly why I insist on hand-watering for establishing new implants; by doing it by hand, I can be sure that the water goes down deep,and there's no way I can do that frequently, lol.
If things go according to plan, this fall I'll be putting out another 25 or so roses and trees,which will mean next summer I'll still be stuck doing this tiresome manual watering. After that, though, I intend to start scaling down,gradually getting rid of my pot ghetto,and focusing on groundcovering companion plants. At that point, an automatic watering system such as the admirable one Toolbelt kindly drew up would be a workable thing,since I'd only require it to really water the shallow-rooted groundcovers-I think of it as "Project Living Mulch"...

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