Keep on Watering!!

We are beginning to sound like a broken record… water, water, and water. Leif’s article for this week’s Northfield News gives some necessary advice – something we’ve all heard but in some cases – many of us need just a gentle reminder…. Here goes………….

Landscape plants in the Northfield/Dundas area need moisture if they have not received irrigation or other watering to supplement the meager rains we’ve had so far this growing season. This is on the heels of 2006 when we also saw some extended hot dry weather. Drought stress of this type can be cumulative, with plants lacking the opportunity to fully recharge their reserves of stored energy.

To relieve the stress partially, give landscape plants that have been established for several years a good heavy watering every 7 to 10 days, until significant rainfall comes our way. I like to follow a good heavy watering with a light application of a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle grow, usually within a day or two. In this way, when the plant activates, there is a little bit of nutrition for it to make use of.

Recently planted trees, shrubs and perennials need watering every 1 to 3 days, with the water applied in smaller amounts directly over the root ball. In heavy or compacted soils it is easy to drown newly installed plants if too much water is applied. In this type of soil frequent applications of small amounts will provide just enough water for growth, without the risk of drowning.

On new plantings, DO NOT leave the hose trickling at the base of the plant. Most new landscape plants need 1 quart to 1 ½ gallons of water per day, depending on size. If you forget a host that is trickling at the base of a plant, you might accidentally apply 10, 20 or even 500 gallons of water when you only intended to give it one or two gallons. This could spell disaster for the plants unless the soil is well drained.

It is very difficult to know how much water you applied with a trickling hose. It’s much easier to verify how much water is applied with the hose running full flow. Just take a 5 gal pail and see how many seconds it takes for your hose to fill the bucket. With normal water pressure, it will probably take only 20 to 30 seconds to fill the 5 gal pail. This means that most newly planted trees, shrubs or perennials will only need 1 to 8 seconds of water per day from a watering wand turned to full flow, depend on their size, and the drainage characteristics of your soil. These instructions apply to landscape plants that are purchased in plastic pots and where you have made a ring dike of soil around each plant to keep the water you give it from running away and watering something other than your new plant.

For balled and burlapped trees, the watering schedule is quite different. Because the come in a ball of dense field soil, most balled and burlapped trees will only need 1 to 2 waterings per week of about 10 gallons each time. twice a week if you have sandy soil that drains out quickly, or if you have a variety like Birth that uses lots of water. One watering of 10 gallons each week is usually enough for most tree varieties unless the weather is scorching hot, in which case you may want to apply 5+ gallons mid-week.

The idea is to water just enough, but not too much. We all need a little tender loving care now and then, and our landscape plants are no different.

Plants that have been established for 3 or more years generally need watering only during drought periods, such as the summer of 2007,. For these plants, I try to water heavily two to four times a month.

Good luck! Could someone out there do a little rain dance for us?