If the soil is dry, then water.
If the soil is wet, then don’t water.
The most important factor in determining your new landscape’s success is practicing good watering habits. During establishment (the first 2 years in the ground), plants should be monitored closely so they do not dry out. High temperatures in conjunction with winds can put a lot of stress on your new plantings. If you are unsure if the plant needs water, you simply need to check it by pulling back the mulch at the base of the plant. Stick your finger into the soil, and feel how wet the soil is. The soil should be moist and cool to the touch, not just on the surface, but a couple of inches down as well. If the soil is dry, then water. If it is moist, don’t water.
Too much water can be just as bad for the plant as a lack of water. Too much water, on a consistent basis can cause root rot, which results in a wilted appearance. A dry wilt is always better than a wet wilt. Bottom line, only water when you know it’s needed. A plant will tell you when it is thirsty by the way it looks. Good indicators of dry plant conditions are if the plant is wilting, saggy, or worst-case scenario, crispy to the touch.
In general, it’s best to water in the early morning before the sun is overhead and the temperature gets hot. Water the base of the plant around the root zone. Never spray the leaves with water during the middle of the day because they can become sun scorched. Be cautious of water that stays on leaves overnight, as this encourages the development of fungus and disease.
During the first month plan on watering 2-3 times per week. After the first month, back it down to at least once per week for the next 5-8 weeks. Again, do not over water, this can happen easily in clay soils. Remember to use the method above to check if you’re unsure.
Monitor the weather and know your plants. If you’re experiencing hot drying winds, then chances are your plants are going to be thirsty. Plants with large leaves, lose moisture faster than plants with small leaves or needles (like evergreens). Large leafed plants can become your indicator plants as they show signs of dryness first. Simply monitor them, and when they start to wilt, water them. Evergreens and grasses generally can go longer between waterings.
Plants that have thick fleshy leaves, such as sedums, are succulents. Of all the plants, succulents need the least water because their leaves actually store water for the plant to use when the roots can’t get water from the soil. The soil around succulents should be kept mostly dry.
Hand watering with a low-pressure hose is best as you can direct the water to the roots. Overhead watering with a sprinkler is not usually recommended. Overhead sprinklers are typically set to water turf, which requires a different rate of watering than landscaping plants. Unless you have a zone in your sprinkler system set up specifically for landscaping beds, you will need to water your landscaping plants by hand.
Keep in mind, after the first month or so they will be less susceptible to under watering. If you do not have the time to water or simply are not interested in that aspect of yard maintenance, then a sprinkler system in your beds may be needed. Talk to us about installing a drip system. We can give you an estimate.
Trees especially need deep watering, usually once a week is sufficient. As always check the soil before watering. Placing the hose at the base of the trunk, and leaving it on at drip or barely a trickle until the soil around the tree is wet to a depth of 5 to 6 inches is a good way to deeply water a tree.
Shrubs will benefit from the same deep watering method. To deeply water shrubs, leave a hose on at drip or trickle until the soil around the shrub is wet to a depth of 3 inches.
If temperatures are consistently very hot and dry, you may need to deeply water twice a week. Remember to always check the soil so you avoid over-watering. Plants will not live in mucky, wet soil. Nor can they live in soil that is so dry it is cracked.
Winter Watering: In the winter plants go dormant so they don’t need as much water. However, when the ground has been without snow cover or rain for 3 or 4 weeks during freezing temperatures and drying winds, plants suffer from lack of moisture. During these long dry spells, your plants will greatly benefit from a drink of water. Fill a pitcher or bucket with water from the kitchen sink and slowly poor it over the root zone of your shrubs and trees. Small plants, will benefit from even a glass of water.
Mulching: A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch is very beneficial around all trees and plants. Do not “bury” your plants with the mulch; keep a bowl of mulch around the plant so it is not riding up on the plant stalk or trunk. Mulch will hold moisture and reduce temperature extremes in the soil, so keep the mulch level constant. During spring or fall maintenance, it’s very common for us to top dress the mulch, returning the level to 2-3 inches.
Watering properly can seem complicated, but for most plants, it really isn’t if you think of it like this: Check the soil with your finger. If the soil around the roots is dry, then water. If the soil around the roots is wet, then don’t water.