Water is the number one necessity for all living things. We as humans have the ability to find water for ourselves; we carry our water bottles around, stop at a drinking fountain or could even go stick our head in a stream if we needed to. Plants are not so lucky. They rely on Mother Nature to get the water to them.
As all of you know come summer in St. Louis, Mother Nature can be stingy with the water. It is our job to help our plants by taking the water to them. So, how do we make sure we are giving our plants the best chance to survive?
The number one thing is know how much water your plants like.
A species that grows on a rocky outcrop will obviously not like as much water as the one growing in the lake behind your house. There are many places to locate the information you need. You can look up the information online, call your local garden center, or ask your landscape company’s horticulturist (me!). You just need to know what type of plant you are dealing with.
First, ALL of your plants will need more water than your turf.There are some general rules to consider when you are watering.
If you think about the fact that a good strand of turf will have roots roughly 6 inches deep into the soil and compare that to the shrub you planted this past spring, that even after coming out of a pot, had roots 12 inches deep.
You have to find a way to get the water deeper.
There are practices you can use to get the water deeper to your shrubs that work for turf as well. If you run your turf irrigation many times a week for a shorter amount of time you are not forcing the roots of the turf to search deeper into the soil profile to find water. The deeper your roots go, the better equipped your plants will be to survive a drought. There will always be more moisture available deeper in the soil profile because the closer to the top of the profile you get the more evaporation.
To do this you will need to water fewer times per week for a longer time frame.
The water will push deep into the soil, and as the top portion of the soil profile dries out the roots will follow the water deeper. There is one caveat to this, putting down too much water in one hour can actually be wasteful because any water that is not being absorbed by the soil is running off. You may consider cycling your irrigation system to run twice in the day. This will help to push water deep into the soil profile.
Most plants need the equivalent of almost an inch of water a week.
This is especially true during establishment. Newer plantings will require extra care and watering through their first two years. If your irrigation system cannot be tailored to provide extra water to your newer plantings you may have to manually water these plants to give them their best chance for survival.
Manual watering is best achieved by turning the hose on so that it barely trickles water.
Place this at the base of the plant and let it run for a few minutes per foot of plant height. A 1 foot perennial may only require a couple minutes whereas a 12 foot tree could require 20-30 minutes of slow soaking moisture.
Plants can be over watered and they will show stress for this as well. If you are watering regularly and your plant begins to wilt or show some stress, you most likely need to back off the watering. Try letting the root system dry out almost completely before watering again. If you still see stress then you can explore other options.
The amount of water being applied is one thing that we can usually have control over and can correct quickly.
Here are some suggestions to simplify your watering duties.
If you just had a large ornamental planting done, consider breaking it up so that you do not feel the pressure to manually water all of the plants every time. It can be much easier to spend a little amount of time moving the hose around multiple days than trying to water everything in one day.
If you have turf and ornamental beds combined on one zone, upgrading to separate zones would improve the quality of your turf and beds. This will end up saving you money in the long run because you will not be over watering your turf so that you can get the proper amount of water to your plants.
Watering can get overwhelming and that’s why we rely on our irrigation systems. However, sometimes our irrigation systems can become more of an irritation. If you get to this point call Dowco. We can perform an irrigation system inspection, provide guidance or even design and install new gardens that make more sense for you.
Dowco is the premier provider of lawn care and landscape maintenance services. We are committed to improving the quality of your life so that you can spend time doing the things you want to do! Our full service menu includes weekly maintenance of your property, plant health visits, and modern site enhancements.