Watering Your Landscape
Watering is a necessity when establishing landscape plantings; however, if timed correctly, it is not that difficult or time consuming. Fall planting season is the best. Early fall will require frequent watering as the temperatures can be warm and dry whereas later fall may require minimal watering if any at all. The fall season allows for plant establishment before the long winter. Having roots started before winter arrives is very beneficial; however, our climate rarely reaches the extremes making winter a great time to plant. Winter watering usually is on an as needed basis. That would be the day the plants are installed and before and after a hard freeze. Watering after windy days would also be prudent.
Spring tends to be one of the busiest times of the year for planting. Spring is also a rapidly changing season that requires great attention to your plant water needs. Earlier in the season watering may require a minimal investment of your time because temperatures are moderate, plants have not started their growth and rainfall is plentiful. As late April and May approach, temperatures can rise quickly, the ground dries, and plants are bursting with water loving growth. This swing will require more frequent watering to tolerate the changing needs of the plants.
Always keep plants moist-- not saturated. Use your fingers or dig up some soil with your hands. It will be obvious if watering is needed or not. Mulch is a necessity to maintain soil moisture so be diligent in keeping the mulch layer in good condition.
Keep in mind that rainfall is the best watering. Rain evenly soaks the soils and the moisture can remain available to the plants for some time if regular rainfall has occurred. A spring rain of ¼ inch is wonderful and will last a week in early spring. A ½ inch rain in the summer is also wonderful but may only last a few days as evaporation is much more prevalent with the heat.
The goal of watering is to establish the plants properly and train them to acclimate to our climate. This is best done with a landscape design that uses xeriscape design principals with plants proven for our climate. Another key factor is soil preparation. If the soils are prepared well, with organic matter and compost, the water will be absorbed readily. Plant roots spread out to the rich soil thus increasing their water gathering area. The following is a guide to watering your landscape.
· New seed or sod should be watered daily for approx. 7-10 days. This should be done with a professionally installed irrigation system or high quality impact or oscillating sprinkler. Only water to wet the seed or sod and the soil layers below but do not allow for excessive puddling. This may be 15 minute intervals. Lift a piece of sod to see that the water has infiltrated. After the 7-10 days, stretch watering out to every other or every third day but water for longer durations (maybe 30 minutes) to allow for percolation to the deeper soil layers. Your seed or sod should be growing now. If the water is running off, stop watering before it runs off and allow the water to infiltrate for an hour then water again. Do this 2-3 times to soak the soil below. (Total watering time approx. 30 minutes) This is called ‘cycle – soak’ and is usually needed on clay soils. This should be done for another 2 weeks. This also will allow the soils to dry slightly in between waterings thus teaching the plants to struggle a little. After that time frame your sod should be established. The lawn may need a little help if we have a very dry period during the summer months. The turf will exhibit a dehydrated look. Watering once a week with a cycle soak should do the trick.
· Typically seasonal flowers will need a daily watering for 2 weeks. The plants should be established if soils were prepared properly and plants selected correctly after that time. Water with a watering wand at the root system to the point of a good soaking.
Trees / Shrubs / Perennials
· Water new trees, shrubs and perennials daily for 7-10 days. Water directly at the root system with a soft watering wand or with your irrigation system. You may only need to water 2-3 times a week in early spring and daily in later spring. After the initial watering period, reduce your watering frequency to 2-3 days a week. The watering should be done for approx. a month. After the month, you may need to water once a week or on as needed basis. Be careful to check the soils if plants are wilting. Over watered plants droop just like plants lacking water so always check the soils first. Larger plants require more water than smaller ones. A general rule that works is to apply about a gallon of water to plants that were one gallon size, 3 gallons of water to 3 gallon sized plants and so on. Trees will require a good soak of 10-50 gallons depending on the size of the tree. Again check the soil and don’t drown the plant.
Remember that the best time to water is early in the morning before 10 am. Try not to water at night as the water will sit on the plants through the night possibly encouraging fungal growth. Don’t forget to tend to your sprinkler or hose if you do not have an irrigation system. Once your plants are well established, usually after about a year, mother nature will take care of them for many years.