Thursday, July 16, 2015

How often should I water?

For the past few years, I've helped out at a local nursery during the spring rush. Toward the end of spring when our spring rains suddenly give way to drought, I remind customers to keep the plants they are purchasing adequately-watered until they are established. Inevitably they ask, "How often should I water it?" That is a perfectly reasonable question to which no one wants to hear the answer, "It depends." But it really does depend on:
  • The condition of the plant, especially the development of its root system
  • Whether the plant prefers a moist or dry environment
  • How the planting area is prepared
  • How well the soil retains moisture
  • Whether mulch is provided and how much
  • How much sun/shade the planting area receives
  • How much sun/shade the plant would like to have
  • How much moisture Mother Nature provides
  • How much heat and wind Mother Nature provides
  • And so on.
Even though these plants have had a little time to establish their root system by the this time of year, they still have to be watched closely especially during these hot, dry days we've had lately. Give them extra care for their first year.

Watering newly-planted, pot-grown plants in the summer can be even more challenging. We know that summer is not the best time to plant but sometimes circumstances demand it (for instance, you may have found a few things you couldn't resist at the plant sale at Summer Celebration).

I always thought it was hard on the plant to be planted in the summer, but after reading an article by nurseryman Don Shor of Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis, California, I'm wondering if it maybe it's just harder on the gardener. He makes a compelling argument that there are advantages to summer planting when plants are given the proper care, including appropriate watering.  Click here to read his tips on watering summer-planted nursery purchases. Mr. Shor's nursery is in the Sacramento valley, but the general advice seems to be applicable in our area as well.

Watering can be pretty tricky, even after plants have become established.  Click here for a more general article on watering a variety of garden situations, including watering lawns.

And a final caveat about summer planting: this discussion applies only to pot-grown plants that have an intact root system. Thinking of transplanting something? Very, very risky this time of year! I can't think of a single plant (with the exception of dividing irises) that would do well transplanting this time of year. Unless you have no other choice, wait for cooler weather.

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