Watering. How much is enough?
Quench your landscape's thirst with these tips and techniques.
Gardeners learn early on that plants—like people—have certain preferences when it comes to their living conditions. Soil, sun, water...each resident in your landscape has a different set of needs.
That's especially true when it comes to watering. Too much of a good thing can be as damaging as too little. Excessive watering encourages fungal growth and drains essential nutrients from the soil, while too little results in limp and lifeless plants that struggle to survive.
So how much is enough? The best solution is to get the basics about your soil type and your plants' needs, and then rely on proper watering techniques and ecofriendly strategies to keep your garden properly hydrated without "draining" your utility budget! Read on to learn
how you can become a watering pro in no time...
Check the labels.
The quickest and easiest way to learn about a particular plant's watering needs is to read the tags that came with it. Look closely...information on watering and other care requirements are almost always noted somewhere on the label.
But don't worry if you've thrown away your plants' tags. There are plenty of on-line resources to help you track down the information you need to keep your plants thriving.
Best time to water?
When you water depends on the type of device you use. If using sprinklers, morning watering is preferable so the foliage dries before nightfall. Use a rain gauge to monitor the amount the garden receives.
Use water-drip systems or soaker hoses in the evening. This gives the soil all night to absorb the moisture. In all cases, it's best to avoid daytime watering, since you're likely to lose quite a bit to evaporation, as well.
Know your soil.
To get the dirt on how thirsty your landscape is, evaluate the medium your plants are growing in. If your soil is sandy, it may mean water and nutrients are draining away at a faster rate. If it has a high composition of clay, it may be more likely to become waterlogged.
As with watering, plants, shrubs and trees have their own preferences when it comes to their ideal growing medium. So if your current bed doesn't match their needs, upgrade it with amendments such as manure, peat moss or humus to improve its condition.
Learn proper techniques.
When it comes to hydrating your plants, thorough but less frequent watering is the key. Thorough watering encourages roots to grow deeper. It gives them a larger area to draw water from and limits the number of poor-performing surface roots.
Apply enough water to soak the root zone (the soil surrounding the plant's roots) to an appropriate depth for the plants you are tending to. Here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind:
Annuals, ground covers: Water when the top few inches of soil begin to dry (when the soil is slightly moist but crumbles in your hand)—about a foot deep.
Perennials, shrubs and trees: Roots of most perennials are in the top foot or two of soil, where organic matter is plentiful, so concentrate your efforts there.
For trees and shrubs, water the whole area under the canopy. Moisten the top foot, and you take care of the feeder roots, which absorb the water.
New plantings: Young perennials need regular watering for the first year or two to ensure strong root development. Once their root system is established, water less frequently: weekly to monthly, depending on your climate and the plant's needs.
Lawns: In general, lawns need about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water a week. That should keep the top 4 to 6 inches of soil moist.
With experience, you'll be able to tell whether your plants need water by looking at them. Leaves that turn gray-green or an off color, containers that feel lighter and lawns with visible footprints are reliable signs that your plants need a drink.