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On Watering

By: Deb Pavlosky
I know you all know this already, but I am going to say this again – plants NEED water – how often and how much is dependent upon the plant and the soil it is planted in as well as other conditions (like temperature, light, wind, mulching, etc.).  If all you are growing is succulents or other drought tolerant plants, overwatering is more of an issue for you than underwatering and this article is not meant for you.
If, however, you are like nearly everyone I know and you are growing typical landscape and/or potted plants in this area, this article should be like gospel.
Water your plants.  During the summer, most plants will need water EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Yes, every single day.  This is especially true for newly planted plants.  When you put a new plant in the ground, the root ball is directly underneath the bottom of the plant.  Plant roots need time to grow and spread before they are truly efficient at getting water.  So, when you water, be sure to water at the base of the plant and directly over the root ball.  Water deeply to encourage the roots to grow more deeply.  If you only water enough to moisten the top couple of inches of soil, you won’t reach the whole root ball and any roots that grow will be shallow.  Shallow watering will lead to weaker and more thirsty plants over time.
If you have a sprinkler system, that’s great for established plants, but the sprinkler heads may not deliver water exactly to the root ball as necessary for new plantings.  So, YES, you will have to hand water those new plantings at least through the first growing season.   It takes some time for plants to become established and develop sufficient root systems.
For established plants (plants that have been in the ground for more than a growing season) watering is less of a concern, but you still have to pay attention to their needs.  Water stress can be the cause of a lot of issues and can make plants more susceptible to disease and pests.  Water daily in the summer to keep your plants happy and healthy.
If your soil drains well, that’s a good thing (ideal for most plants except boggy types that either like to be in the water or have wet feet).  But, because it drains well, you are going to have to water daily.  Even if there was a rainstorm the day before, you have to water.  I have personal experience that I am sharing with you in the photo included here.  This photo shows a half whiskey barrel planter that I was replanting the day following a rainstorm.  I assumed the soil would be too wet for me to plant, but I thought I would give it a go anyway.  I pulled the old plants out and then dug down into the soil to find that it was completely DRY beneath the surface.  And, though the surface appeared wet, the soil beneath was not.  I was so struck by it, I asked my husband to come out and see it too.  He’s always asking if I really need to water and this was prima facie evidence.  Yes, counselor, I do.
So, the end of June came with a few days of really rainy weather and that was a nice little relief for this gardener.  But, the heat will return and watering will be key to happy plants and in turn a happy gardener.
Also, remember that your plants are using up nutrients in the soil as they grow and all the watering can cause some of those nutrients to leach out of the soil too.  Fertilize through the growing season with a good organic fertilizer like Microlife 6-2-4.  This fertilizer provides needed nutrition and encourages more fine-root growth that will help plants uptake both water and nutrients.  As a bonus, Microlife will not burn your plants.  It’s a win-win-win so, don’t forget to water-water-water and use a good organic fertilizer.