One of the most common questions we hear from our landscaping installation customers is, “How often should I water my new plants.” And it’s an important question because you need to get it right to make sure your plants thrive. Too much water is just as harmful as too little. In fact, we replace more plants due to overwatering than under watering
Simple But Complicated
And though it is a simple and straightforward question, the answer is not so cut and dried. That’s because there are so many variables to consider. We have to take the plant and its size, the location – sunny, part sunny, or shady, the type of soil, the time of year, the rain pattern we are presently in. Is it on flat ground or a hill, is it in a basin, what type of watering you do whether direct hose spray, oscillating sprayer, or irrigation. Whew, this is getting overwhelming. All of these factors have an impact on how much you will need to water your plants.
But don’t throw up your hands in despair. Let’s start with some basics that will simplify all of this. The smaller the plant the quicker it will dry out. Flowers, perennials, and grasses would do better with daily light waterings initially. Medium plants in the shrub category would need to be watered about every other day, but you will water slightly longer – enough to get the root ball moist. And then trees will take the most water, but perhaps only once or twice a week.
Just keep in mind you don’t need to water any of your new plants for long periods of time because the roots are only on the very surface.
Check them. Yep, pretty basic.
Though we all love simple and easy directions like take 2 pills after eating, with planting it just doesn’t work quite that way.
So go out and push away the mulch if you have it to expose the soil. You will easily be able to tell how wet the soil is. Check in sunny areas and in shady spots. With a little checking you will get a pretty good idea of the condition of the soil and the amount of water needed. And if you have 2” or 3” of mulch on top you probably notice that even when the mulch on the surface looks dry often it is very moist below. That mulch is insulating the soil to keep it from drying out so fast.
This is not really as involved as it might seem. After you do it a few times you will know those areas that need more and those that need less. Completely dry is bad. Standing water is bad. So there is a pretty wide range in between.
After The Honeymoon Period
Now another thing we see is that most of the time people will be very diligent in watering for the first month or so and then they pay less and less attention to their new plants. As the roots spread out the plant does have a greater capacity to obtain water in the soil, but when we get into summer they will not be nearly as drought tolerant as existing plants in the landscape. So remember to continue to be vigilant in the hot weather. Again, check the soil is the best way to know.
Do You Have An Irrigation System?
If you do have an irrigation system that can be convenient, but it is still absolutely necessary to check your plants primarily for over watering in this case. You see your lawn will need more water to prevent the grass from going into drought stress than your landscaping. Some systems have been set up to have a particular zone watering the garden and that is great. If, however, you do not have this feature and are watering every day your plants will be overwatered. In this case you will want to turn down the lawn irrigation and get it to tune more to the landscaping needs which would probably be twice a week.
Money Saving Tip
Here is something that all of you with irrigation systems should be aware of and it will save you money and improve the health of all your plants. Our hot summer weather always breaks between the 5th and the 15th of September. Make a point to either turn off your irrigation or turn the interval way down. If you have been watering regularly once a week will be plenty.
These Guys Aren’t Rookies Anymore
Now for your plants that are established obviously they have a much more developed root system and will be more resistant to drought. If you look at the soil around a tree it may be bone dry, but the tree will be fine. Unless we are in an extended drought watering may not be necessary. At least once a month in the growing season you would like your plants to get significant moisture and 2 times a month in the heat of the summer – whether by rain or by hose.
A Final Thought
And finally, one more topic on watering is that you want to make sure your plants have enough water in the winter. Now during most years this is not necessary because when the soil gets wet it dries out very slowly in the colder temperatures. But sometimes we have a very dry fall or no precipitation in the winter. Under such conditions many plants will be stressed and could die. So even though you put away the hose in October you may need to get it out on a mild November or even December day.
So after all this here is the short answer to this question. Just pay attention to what is going on outside and in your garden. This way you will be able to anticipate what your watering needs will be, and the bonus is your plants will love you for it.