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Watering guidelines

Congratulations on your new plant installation!  Here is a list of some frequently asked questions that we get regarding watering your new plants.  If you have further questions, feel free to give us a call or stop in.

Why is watering so important?
Water is one of the key common substances required by all living things in order to sustain life.  Just like our own bodies, plants require water to survive.  If we don’t drink enough water, we feel dehydrated and can’t function.  And if we drink too much water, we feel sick.  Plants react the same way.

How do I know when my plants need water?
Pull the mulch away from underneath the plant around the drip line and feel about 1-3” below the soil.  The drip line is the outer edge of the branches.  If the soil seems damp or moist, you have sufficient water.  If the soil feels dry or is hard to penetrate with your finger, it needs water.

What is the best method to water my plants?
The best method of watering is to use an open-ended hose, not a sprinkler.  Since plants prefer a slow soaking, turn on the water to a slow trickle, and water at the base of the plant.  Do not water the leaves.

As a general rule, watering should be deep and infrequent, as this helps plants to establish a strong root system. Watering so that only the surface of the soil is damp will make the plant’s root grow towards the surface rather than deep down, which leaves the plant vulnerable during hot periods or times when you do not water.

How much water do I give my plants?
A thorough soaking will take from 20 seconds for small plants to 2-3 minutes for larger shrubs and trees. Please see the chart below:

Small plants (1 gallon containers) – 20 seconds (about ½ gallon of water)
Medium plants (3-7 gallon containers) – 40 seconds (about 1 gallon of water)
Large plants (15 gallon containers & B&B) – 2 minutes (about 3 gallons of water)

Why shouldn’t I use a sprinkler to water?
We find that watering by hand is not only better for the plants, but also uses far less water.

What time of the day should I water?
There is a lot of dispute in the landscape industry as to when the best time of the day to water.  Some will say the best time of day to water is early morning, before the heat of the day has set in. This reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation, and also provides water for the plants to help them get through the heat of the day.

However, others will tell you to water in the evening when the summers are hot.  The coolness of the evening will allow the plants ample time to absorb the water, instead of competing with the hot sun that can dry the water up before the plants get to absorb it.

Most agree not to water the garden during the heat of the day.  The water will evaporate, rather than penetrating the soil.  Remember, the goal is to deeply soak the soil, encouraging the plant to put out more roots to search for water.

If watering in the evening after the heat is passed, make sure to water early enough that the leaves of the plants will completely dry before night time.  Fungal infections can colonize leaves which are left moist overnight, and roots will also suffer from being watered in the late evening.  Being left moist and cold at night can lead to rot and fungal infections of plant roots, an undesired result.

If you are using irrigation system, set the system to water your landscape in the morning not past 8:00am.

How often should I water?
This is probably the most frequently asked question, and it is the million dollar question!  The answer – when it needs it of course!!

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend watering your new plants twice a week.  Depending on weather conditions and what season we are in, this rule may change.  Perennials and annuals may require more than this especially in the summer since they have a much smaller root ball.  When in doubt, check the soil as mentioned above.

If it rains, does that count toward my weekly watering?
Rainfall less than 1” should not be considered watering.  Unless we have a long soaking rain, it will RARELY supply sufficient water to your plants.  Again, when in doubt, check the soil as mentioned above.

Should I water in the winter?
The short answer to this question is no.  Usually during the winter, the ground is frozen so the roots will not be able to uptake any water.  However, if the ground is not frozen and we are getting sunny warm days, you may want to take a short run out to your plants to check the soil moisture levels.

How long do I have to keep up this watering schedule?
It is very important that plants receive the proper amount of moisture for at least the first two years after installation and during drought conditions thereafter.  During a hot, dry spell in mid-summer, established plants would benefit from occasional deep watering.  Water once or twice weekly, depending on the severity of the weather.

Should I water all my plants the same way?
Not all plants have the same water requirements.  Plants are placed in your landscape based on the existing sun and water conditions and should be able to tolerate those conditions.  In other words, if you have a hot dry location, you should be planting drought-resistant plants, like Juniper, Grasses, Sedum, etc.  These plants require much less water than plants that grow well in moist areas, such as Astilbe and Iris.

How can I tell if I’m over watering?
The leaves on the plant will become dark and wilted, usually starting at the tip, or they will turn yellow.  This is the point when most people will make the fatal mistake of thinking their plants need more water.

Plants, just like humans, need water AND oxygen to survive.  The soil in which roots grow is filled with pores where water and oxygen flow.  If there is too much water in the soil and no room for oxygen, you will basically suffocate your plants by depriving them of air.

Once the plant has gotten to this point, sometimes it is too late to rejuvenate.  If you have been watering your plants regularly, STOP watering your plants and give them time to dry out.  Remember, if conditions are normal, you should not be watering your plants more than once or twice a week.

How can I tell if I’m not watering enough?
The first thing to ask is “When is the last time I watered my plants?”  If you can’t remember, chances are they are being neglected.  If your plants are wilting or becoming dry and crunchy, check the soil for moisture levels.  If the soil is bone dry, refer to the instructions on how much water to give your plants.  Do not start to overwater your plants, but get them back onto a watering schedule of about two times a week under normal conditions.