Universal Watering of your Landscape
|The number one question asked by homeowners in the summer is “How often should I water my plants?” This question is asked by homeowners installing new trees and shrubs as well as established ones. Boy, I wish I knew an automatic answer. The amount of rain we’ve had to date has no effect on how much moisture is n the soil now.
I’m about to embark on the most difficult garden subject I’ve ever written about “Watering the Landscape”. Many books, booklets, and plant tags have been written on proper watering. Problem is, every bit of information has to be generic as this info is meant to cover lots of different areas of the U.S. that includes 10 different weather zones including minimum and maximum air temperatures, soil types, and average rainfall. To consolidate the watering information so I may get to the proper way to water in your area, I must make a few assumptions:
1. You’re installing plants that are hardy to our area.
2. New plants have been placed in the right light and wind exposure.
3. The soil type is within the range that your plant needs to thrive.
Violating any of the above will make watering a mute issue.
Now let’s assume your only possible holdup to a happy landscape is the proper watering of your trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and lawns. What is proper?
a. Is it to water every 7 to 10 days as the tag said?
b. Is it the watering directions that you’ll see in most gardening books that say to keep your plants moist?
c. Is it watering your shrubs and flowers that are growing within the area in which the lawn sprinkler waters the grass?
d. Is it watering your lawn with a hand held hose nozzle?
e. Is it running the sprinkler system 2 to 3 times per week for 12 minutes at a time?
Let me start with the lawn. Active growing lawns need 1” of water per week minus any rainfall. There is usually sufficient rainfall in spring and fall. If not, go to the 1” rule. When you water the lawn, put down at least ½” of water, each time you water. This practice encourages deep rooting of the lawn making it more drought tolerant. Place a straight sided glass in the area the sprinkler is covering and measure the amount of water accumulating in the glass.
Watering all your plants in your landscape has one and only one rule. “Check the soil for moisture around any plant you intend to water”
Plants of all types will have different water needs in the same landscape. Some areas receive more wind and sun making these plants more prone to dry out.
Some plants naturally need more moisture than others. Always plant compatible plants together. If you find one plant is dry and the other 14 in the area are OK, just water the plant that needs it and not all the rest because you drug the hose out.
The magic wand every home needs, to only water what’s dry, is a garden trowel. Before watering any plant, check the soil moisture by digging the trowel down 3 inches and check for moisture around the plant; dry-water, moist leave alone.
A lot of people will rely on the visual appearance of the plant to decide when to water. Droopy leaves can mean either the plant is too wet or the plant has not been watered enough. Don’t let the appearance of the plant fool you. Always use the trowel to check soil moisture and not your eyes when trying to decide whether to water or not.
Believe it or not, plants die quicker from over watering than under watering. The vast majority of plants that fail to grow are killed with kindness, not neglect. Check your soil with your trowel weekly and only water when that soil in your hand is dry.
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