How Much Water Do Your Plants Need and Actually Get?

The quickest cause of plant failure is insufficient or incorrect watering.

With my blog last week I discussed the sunlight requirements of plants and how choosing the right plant for the right location is so important.  Now, once the correct plant is chosen and properly planted, the cultural care of the plant is also vital to the long-term success.

Becoming more aware of your soil and how water behaves in it is invaluable information for your future gardening success.

As I mentioned earlier, the most important survival factor for newly planted shrubs and trees is soil moisture during the first few years after planting.  Watering during the first growing season is crucial.  After planting, the roots of shrubs and trees will eventually spread into the surrounding soil.  Until that happens, shrubs and trees continue to draw water mostly from their root ball.  The rule of thumb for the time required for shrub and tree establishment is one year for each one-inch of shrub or tree caliper.  Smaller shrubs and trees establish more quickly than larger shrubs and trees.  It is critical to the shrubs and tree’s health that the root ball of the tree not dry out during the establishment period.  A shrub or tree with a dry root ball cannot absorb water.

The best advice I can give you is this:  always water you’re newly planted plant where the root ball is.  Water it thoroughly (let the hose trickle on the top of the root system for 15 to 30 minutes).  Let it dry out “slightly” before watering again.  Some of the factors that influence the rate of watering will include types of soil, weather conditions, and the individual plant and the size of its root ball.

Maybe when you are driving around the area you will see newly planted trees with green bags wrapped around their trunk.  These green bags are called ‘Tree Gators’.  Using these ingenious products is an excellent method of watering the root ball in a slow, soaking manner.

Most people are unaware of the fact that water from surrounding soil will not move into the new root ball.  Two different types of soils rarely “share” water.  The new root ball will actually dry out and shrink, “pulling away” from surrounding soil.  Water tends to move down, but not sideways.  So, directly soak each root ball thoroughly.  As relaxing as it is to stand in your garden with a hose spraying your new plants, it does little for the plants themselves.  The leaves of the new shrub or tree will often shed the water and prevent it from contacting the root ball.  This is why an irrigation system should not be relied on to water new shrubs or trees.

Be water wise.  It is always best to water early in the morning in order to minimize evaporation.


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