Watering Your Landscape
Watering can be one of the most confusing tasks of all gardening chores, but also one of the most critical to ensure the proper development and performance of your landscape plants. Below, I will share thoughts to assist you with understanding proper watering procedures for your landscape.
Though watering instructions can be sometimes simple, the most difficult area of choice is how to adjust any general watering instructions given based on seasonal changes, soil conditions, and variety and/or plant category.
I’ll start with seasonal variations based on the amount of rainfall. Many homeowners often get confused and alter their watering procedures based on rainfall expectations or occurrences. If rainfall persist for a long period throughout the day and is slow and consistent, then it probably will provide adequate rainfall for deep watering. Quick rainfall or hard thundershowers often do not provide adequate watering for deep saturation, so don’t be alter your watering procedures too much from quick fast rains.
Soil conditions can also have variances affecting watering procedures. Hopefully, most planting conditions promote highly organic soils combined with that of well drained attributes. If so, frequent watering can be accepted, but poorly drained soils and heavier clay conditions can sometimes promote excessive moisture.
In general, remember that too much water means too little oxygen and air flow. Oxygen contents in the soil is necessary for proper root development and performance. Always attempt to start with adequate soil preparation to ensure proper drainage, but when not possible, adjust watering procedures to ensure proper drying conditions between water applications.
Variety differences can require you to alter your watering procedures based on particular varieties that are sensitive to either too much or too little water. Remember, when planning your garden, inquire what plants in your landscape are senstive to either extreme. Any well trained horticulturalists will be able to inform you as to what plants you are choosing are sensitive to excessive or inadequate water supply.
Last, but not least, method and volume of watering plays a hugh role in the interval of your water applications. Water applications can be performed by rotating and non rotating sprinklers, soaker hoses, pressure spray nozzles, watering cans, and of course, my favorite being manual watering utilizing a water hose and, simply as I can say it, your finger to deflect the water dispersed from the hose into a broken up spray pattern. No matter the procedure you select, you need to ensure the bottom line result provides a thorough soaking deep around the plants root system. For flowers and small perennials, root systems are shallower, but for larger shrubs and trees, their root systems are deeper, so slower soaking is necessary.
Annual flowers can be one of the most reliant plant groups needing regulated watering attention. In general, watering attention on a 1-2 day interval basis is required for many annuals especially those ground or hanging containers which often require daily watering. Obviously, due to the shallower root systems of annuals, deep watering are not quite as necessary and rainfalls have more of an affect on your chosen intervals.
It’s recommended to manage watering of annuals in the early morning hours before excessive heat arrives in the afternoon. Avoid watering late in the evening and ensure watering in later afternoon allows thorough drying on the foliage before nightfall.
Manage adequate watering during the spring to ensure that annuals and perennial are not allowed to wilt excessively, but also do not over water keeping the soil continually wet for drying between watering intervals is preferred. Remember, excessive under or over watering is most common during the early development of annuals and perennials since their root systems are young and sensitive to extremes of either drying or continually wet conditions.
Probably one of the most difficult categories of watering procedures, often newly installed and developing landscapes suffer from inadequate watering management. Due to the larger and deeper root systems of various shrubs, ground covers, and small trees, the method of water applications play a huge role in ensure proper water applications.
As mentioned earlier, larger root balls, especially those in 5 gallons and larger containers, require water applications that will saturate the root balls of these newly planted plants. The more reason that quick fast rains or thundershowers play little role in providing adequate watering for these newly installed plants.
The common recommended interval of water to a newly installed landscape is every day for the first 3-5 days after installation and then 2-3 times each week following. This watering attention should be managed until newly developing plants have well rooted and generally needs to be managed for the 1 year after their installation.
Obviously, frequency of rainfall and daytime temperatures do play a role in these watering intervals, so it’s obvious that early spring, late fall, and the winter season does require less watering attention. Though these lower temperature and higher rainfall seasons do require less attention, don’t be fooled into not managing watering needs during this time of year. We often have dry periods during these cool seasons, so occasional watering is needed, especially if recent planting was chosen having the plants dependent on supplement water applications. My recommendation for watering during the cooler seasons would be once weekly unless heavy rainfall conditions exists.
I will once again stress the importance of method of watering. Be leery of watering with sprinklers, watering cans, and pressure nozzles for they can often not provide adequate watering unless managed properly. I feel that there is nothing better than manual watering utilizing a water hose and high volume water breaker nozzle or simply your finger to deflect the water pattern. Select a group of shrubs or trees, say a group of 6-12 and work rotate between this group going back and forth allowing deep saturation to each and minimizing runoff not providing deep saturation thru to the full depth of the root ball of the plant. Once you have worked within this group back and forth multiple times, you can continue to the next group. Remember, one thorough watering ensuring deep water penetration is more adequate than multiple quick watering applications.
If you have difficult to reach shrubs that are planted individually or at hard to reach locations from your home’s water source, utilize a water container, such as a used milk jug, and punch several narrow slits in it’s base to provide a steady water drip and place directly at the base of each shrub. it’s amazing what 1 gallon of water applied properly will do to a newly developing shrub.
All of the same techniques listed above apply to this category of newly planted developing trees and evergreens, but often these are positioned or placed in locations far away from water sources, positioned on slopes, or simply large enough that other time efficient methods are available.
Be leery of carrying large 5 gallons buckets of water to each tree for many times this is not applied slow enough to direct the water deeply down thru the larger root system. A system utilizing a drip jug or container is very effective as I have described above. It’s possible that you’ll want to utilize a larger container and rotate from one larger plant to the other. Sometimes, even if a water hose can reach these intended larger plants, this technique provides efficient use of water as well as ensure that the full amount of the water applied is focused directly down thru the larger tree or evergreen’s root system. An available method of utilizing a slow drip technique is with a ‘Gator Bag’ which is a ring shaped bag that holds anywhere from 10-20 gallons of water that is dispersed slowly thru small designed drip mechanisms on the underside of the drip bag. These ‘Gator Bags’ are available at Evergreen of Johnson City.
Another good technique if a water hose can reach the intended tree or evergreen would be to turn the hose on very slowly to provide a very slow steady stream of water and place at the base of each larger tree or evergreen for approximately 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the tree or evergreen being watered.
For larger hedges of screening evergreens, often soaker hoses are utilized to attempt a slow watering of a larger group at one time. I’m hesitate to suggest this method, for it has several weaknesses to include waste of water in-between trees, misbalance of water due to pressure variances of long soaker hose runs, etc.
Lawns can be one of the most difficult areas of the landscape to water without the use of an automated irrigation system installed by a professional. There is a large portion of the year that normal rainfall is adequate to fulfill your lawn’s water needs. During the summer and early fall season, many lawns suffer from inadequate water or natural rainfalls and often have a tendency to display a look of dormancy turning a discolored green or brownish color. Usually this is not a problem if you don’t mind accepting the discolor and lack of deep green lush color, but in extreme drought conditions, some dieback can occur during excessive drought conditions within your lawn.
We urge you to use caution during excessive dry periods of the summer and early fall season and manage at least weekly watering applications to simply mange a viable root system that will bounce back when temperatures and adequate rainfall resumes. Rotating or oscillating sprinklers are the most common water devices utilized when watering larger open areas such as home and business lawns.
The recommended water applications would suggest 1″ of water each week for a lawn to have adequate water for lush and active growth conditions. During the hot and dry seasons, any amount of water that can be applied to manage a viable and functional root system is recommended. Your choice of how much water to apply would amount to what practical to you as well as what level of lushness you prefer to achieve. Any watering attention that you provide will easily allow you to understand and judge the results from your efforts.
With regards to managing water on newly sown or sodded lawns, I urge you to utilize the necessary techniques to ensure a well develop root system during the first year after installation. Though Evergreen of Johnson City does not recommend establishing new lawn in spring or summer due to Fescue lawns being extremely sensitive to summer drought when underdeveloped. Fall seeding has become a standard recommendation in our area and promotes the advantages of the cooler fall season and rainfall, but also provides three cool seasons of root growth before the lawn’s first summer challenge.
I’ve so often seen lawns sown in the spring and germination is acceptable and strong, however, severe dieback and recession is caused during the summer months and fall renovation is often required following such a stressful summer condition. Often there isn’t a choice in the matter with newly built homes, so I often recommend that fall over-seeding and/or light renovation be expected the following fall.
Well, whether to utilize the assistance of a professional automated irrigation system is one to be carefully considered. As a company that does design and install such automatic irrigation systems, I have experienced the pros and cons of such systems.
With regards to their value to newly developing landscapes, I believe automated irrigation systems do provide wonderful benefits to the landscape, especially with that of lawns whether seeded or sodded. What needs to be reminded is that, like mentioned often above, over watering is as much of a problem as under watering. If an irrigation system is monitored properly and variable circumstances such as rainfall variances and daytime temperatures are taken into consideration, then you have nothing to loose and all to gain. Automated rain sensors can be incorporated into a well designed automated landscape irrigation system taking the guess work out of turning your system on or off during rainfall variances.
Many home or business owners think that more water is better. Rarely is daily watering advised as an overall watering schedule due to simply drowning or keeping root systems excessively wet and reducing oxygen levels suppressed.
The most common watering cycle that is utilized by irrigation systems managed by Evergreen is 2 times weekly during the spring and mid fall seasons and 3 times weekly during the summer and early fall seasons. Depending on the nature and intensity of the irrigation system’s design, properly designed systems usually run for 10-15 minutes during each watering cycle.
In closing on this topic, I feel that irrigation systems are a positive and good option for the landscape when designed and managed properly. If a property owner is wanting a lush lawn during 12 months out of the year, then an irrigation system is quite necessary due to our drier summer season. Automatic irrigation for newly developed landscape plantings is very adequate when managed properly, but use caution with tree & shrub varieties that are sensitive to excessive moisture levels.