The wonders of water

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey

A special “thank you” to all the Cultivate Catskill volunteers who have spent countless hours planting, deadheading, weeding, mulching and watering the flowers around town. And an extra special “thanks” to the DPW workers who water the hanging baskets and pots along Main Street, a well as the Greene County workers who cut the grass in our parks.

As I was watering Leggio Park this morning, I had a chance to contemplate the wonders of water. Did you know that water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to all known forms of life? It is a transparent, tasteless, odorless and nearly colorless chemical substance that is the main constituent of the Earth’s streams, lakes and oceans. It is also the fluid of most living organisms, including plants.

Like all life on Earth, plants need water to survive and grow. Indeed, like humans, water is the primary element that makes up the structure of plants. Human bodies are comprised of about 70 percent water, but in plants, this proportion can be as high as 95 percent. In plants, water is used for structure, photosynthesis, translocation and transportation.

Water helps plants move nutrients from the soil through its stems and leaves. It also keeps the plant moist, flexible, and helps the plant make its own food. Photosynthesis is what plants do to create their food and water is critical to this process. Water enters a plant’s stem (via the roots), and travels up to its leaves where photosynthesis takes place. Once in the leaves, water evaporates, as the plant exchanges water for carbon dioxide. The combination of sunlight, healthy soil, clean air, and water all work together to help keep a plant healthy.

So what’s the best way to water? One key is to focus on the root zone … not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. Also, remember to water only when needed. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little. Make sure to water deeply and thoroughly. Lawns and annuals concentrate their roots in the top six inches of the soil. For perennials and shrubs, it’s the top 12 inches. Water in the morning to allow any moisture on the leaves to dry out. And to conserve water evaporation in the soil, mulch everything.

In Catskill, we are most fortunate to be surrounded by water in our lakes, streams. creeks and of course the Hudson River. But while 96.5 percent of our plant’s water supply is found in seas and oceans, only 1.77 percent is in groundwater. (The rest can be found in glaciers, ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland and a very small amount in vapor, clouds and precipitation.

The current dry spell is a reminder to conserve our drinking water and appreciate the life sustaining properties of this vital fluid. Consider installing a rain barrel to water your flower garden. Also, keep trash away from and out of our waterways to help ensure the beauty and viability of our ecosystem. Being cognizant of the role water plays in our environment, you can help us continue to Cultivate Catskill.

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