How often should you water?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How often you water, generally depends on how long the plant has been in the ground, what kind of soil it was planted in, what time of year, the type of plant and the amount of rain you have been getting.

When you first plant something you want to water it well. Water the ground around the plant and make sure all the dirt settles back in place. I generally water the next two days to get the rest of the settling to happen although for not as long as when I planted at first.

I then begin trying to skip a day or two in between watering. I do this watering interval for a week or two, depending on rain fall, temperature and how the plant looks.

At this point you should be able to drop the intervals to every 3-4 or 4-5 days and possibly add a couple minutes since the interval is less frequent. If you are in the middle of summer you may want to stay at every 4-5 days until temps cool off then you can progress to every 5-7 days until the leaves on your plant(s) drop.

It may even be necessary to water every 2-3 days after you have been at 4-5 days if the temps are high 90’s or steady low 90’s for an extended period of time.

This may seem confusing, however the simple rule is as temps go up, so does the frequency of watering. As the temps go down, you water less.

Soil can help you determine the frequency of watering intervals. Clay soils drain slower than sandy soils, so if you have sandy soils it is important to water more frequently.

*Tip: Amend your sandy soils with Canadian sphagnum water peat moss. Canadian sphagnum peat moss holds 13 times its weight in moisture.

If you have clay soils, water less frequently and also think about amending your soil with some course materials like fine grade pine bark mulch to get some more drainage and aeration in the soil so the roots establish temselves in their permanent home.

We would love to tell you exactly how often to water, but these are just general guidelines.

It is imperative that you look at your plants to make sure they are not wilting. My suggestion is look at them before you leave in the morning to go to work and look at them when you come home before you go in the house and sit down in your favorite chair. Because once you’re there, if you’re like me, it’s all over! If you look at the trees and plants like this you will not miss anything that you can not get turned around. If you leave them go for weeks on end during later summer you can have some scary results.

Depending on the time of year you plant the plants will make a difference on the plants water needs. If something was planted in the spring and depending on rainfall you may or may not have to water much. However close observation is key as described in the last paragraph. Once you get to mid May often times the water gets turned off for the summer or is sporadic at best.

At that moment you have to start watering your plants and get them through the summer until the rain picks up again and the temperatures cool down.

If you plant during the summer its a great time to get a tan and enjoy the weather, have a cold one, etc., etc. But stay up on your watering and pay close attention to your new plantings. Sometimes after the first couple of weeks you can get into the every 4-5 days schedule and other times it seems like you’re out there everyday or two. Being able to ad-lib with weather conditions is what separates successful gardeners from frustrated gardeners.

Often times I hear people say “Well it rained so I can quit watering.” It is important to HOW MUCH rain you actually received. To be sure, get a rain gauge for about $10.00 or less at your local hardware or department store. I assure you this will be the cheapest bit of entertainment you’ll every invest in! One inch of rain may get you off the hook for a day or two depending on the temperature and 2 inches of rain may give you a break for 3-4 days.

It is important to note that plants have “drip lines”. This is the area right below the foliage that is furthest away from the trunk.

Plants that were originally grown in containers have very coarse soil and it’s easy to tell if they need watering. Push on the root ball with your thumb. If the soil feels moist and the soil doesn’t bounce back, you probably can put watering off a day or two depending on where you are at on your watering schedule.

If the soil is crusty and when you push on the soil it bounces back like a sponge, it is time to water.

For plants that were field grown then put in pots: If you can dimple the soil ball with your finger, put off watering for a couple of days. If the ball is really hard its time to water.

Deciduous plants such as Maples, Oaks & Dogwoods need to be watered more frequently than Conifers or Evergreens such as Pine, Spruce, Fir and Junipers. There are exceptions to this rule such as the Katsura or Willow which demand a lot of water to become established although it is deciduous. The exception to Conifers are Hemlocks and Redwoods.

Perrenials as a given rule do not want to be overly moist, especially coral bells, bleeding hearts and garden phlox. Ligularia or Leopard plant is the exception.

Grasses are a moderate user of moisture until the fall when they flower or push their tassels or plumes. Grasses need extra moisture at this time.

Succulants such as Hens & Chicks and Sedumas also konwn as Stove Crop, are leafy plants that use water very efficiently and do not like to be overly moist at all. Even after planting you can skip to watering every 3-4 days without much worry. Then progress to every 5-7 days quicker than you would with other varieties of plants.

These are some basic ideas on how to water some different groups of plants. More detailed information can be found in the Additional Information section of each of our plants.


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