Friday, July 23, 2010

Deep Watering Root Mulching Controls Soil Moisture

Landscape vine stems and trunks are long and high, and the leaves are far away from the roots that send them moisture. For lush, green growth water regularly, thoroughly, and deep, moistening the entire area around the roots. It may take several hours to dribble water from a soaker hose to saturate the soil around a large vine, less for smaller plants - but they require watering more often.

You can help keep soil cool and moist by mulching the root area with a fairly thick (two inches or more) layer of any available light, porous, moisture-holding material like buckwheat hulls, chopped sugar cane, salt hay or straw, horticultural peat. Well-rotted dehydrated manure is not only a good mulch but also leaches nourishment down into the soil. Compost or leaf mold is also topnotch, and will eventually work down into the soil and help lighten or condition it.

Except when they are in flower, most vines benefit from overhead misting or watering in early morning. A strong hose spray will clean the leaves of dust and soot, increase humidity, and dislodge resident insects. Don't spray or mist in hot sun, in late afternoon where nights are cool, or during protracted periods of damp, dark weather.

Try not to let any vine, newly planted or not, go into winter with dry soil around the roots. This is particularly vital with evergreens; but any vine, shrub or tree is better prepared for winter if the roots are moist when the ground freezes.


Most vines will thrive in what is generally described as "any good garden soil." But this may not mean the soil as it stands around your house. Good garden soil is neither too sandy nor too clay like; it contains a good proportion of humus material like leaf mold, peat, or compost to lighten its texture and increase its ability to hold moisture; yet it is sufficiently porous so that water drains through at a reasonably fast rate. In clay-like soils, drainage is improved by the addition of coarse, sharp sand, or even fine gravel. But don't forget about the spider mites on house plants because they can destroy your plants.

Some vines will not survive in soil that shows an acid reaction in an accurate test; others require acid soil; still others will tolerate a limited range of acidity to alkalinity. Commercial kits are available for testing your soil. Or ask your County Agricultural Agent how to submit samples to your State Agricultural Service. If you send along the names of varieties you want to grow, the analysis will come back with a recommendation of how to adapt your soil to their specific needs.