The really long 15 hour days of summer provide an excellent opportunity to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials into your landscape and have them establish new and healthy root systems extremely rapidly. This understanding of how landscape plants establish themselves is at odds with the outdated notion that you should only plant in the spring and fall.
The biological processes of landscape plants establishing themselves in your landscape revolve around the length of day and the amount of available light, adequate but not excessive water availability, loose uncompacted soil to allow rapid root development, and adequate but not excessive nutrient levels.
I suspect that most of the hesitancy about planting during the summer has to do with the mistaken idea that it is really hard to keep new plants watered enough. The reality is that watering new plantings is very quick and easy, and does not require nearly the amount of water that people think they have to provide. The key to success with watering new plantings is to water small amounts often.
Most new landscape plants are purchased in plastic nursery pots and are established in a lightweight rapidly draining soil-less media of peat and pine bark, to keep them from root rotting in the unnatural environment of a plastic container. Once these plants are carefully planted into a well chosen location in your landscape, they use up the moisture in the root ball very quickly – generally in about one day. When the water in the root ball has been used up, you need to add water to moisten the root ball, because there are no roots yet extended out into the surrounding soil. Even if the soil around the root ball is very wet, not very much moisture will migrate into the root ball. What’s needed to moisten the root ball is a small amount of water applied on a daily basis directly over the root ball so it can soak in via gravity. This takes very little water if a small ring dike of soil is created around each plant to keep the small volume of water applied directly over the root ball.
When planting is done correctly, and with a small ring dike in place, it takes only a few seconds a day to hand water new plantings during the first month or so after planting. A new planting area of 3-4 perennials, shrubs and trees can be watered just enough, and not too much in as little as 3-5 minutes per day the first month, and every other day the next month.
If new plants are watered for hours at a time, supersaturated soil conditions develop that could easily encourage root rot, and prevent new roots establishing. Watering small amounts frequently helps avoid root rot and promotes rapid root growth when the soil is not super-saturated. A key thought to hold onto is that hand watering frequently in small amounts is actually quick and easy. In a few minutes you are all done watering for the day and don’t have to remember to turn off a sprinkler or a trickling hose. You can go about the rest of your day without any preoccupation and the plants that got the modest daily hand watering will actually establish new roots more quickly and grow better.
We have created a great watering chart to make this even easier, and provide it to our customers with each purchase.
One last thing to remember about the benefits of summer planting. The days are 14-15 hours long. This means the plants are growing 14-15 hours per day. This means they are growing new roots 14-15 hours per day. Summer planting is a golden opportunity to get your new landscape plantings to establish quickly with a quick and easy program of daily / every other day watering that is not only easier, but better for the plants then when they get supersaturated.
Have a great summer planting with a planting project during the peak of the growing season!