EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WATERING (but were too afraid to ask)

When it comes to watering our cherished and well-tended gardens, we think we’ve got it down. How hard can it be?   As long as water is coming in contact with the soil, everything is just fine, right?  

Wrong.  

 What  NOT  to do: water directly over the flowers.  They'll wither away much more quickly with the impact and wetness.

What NOT to do: water directly over the flowers. 
They'll wither away much more quickly with the impact and wetness.

Watering is an art, just as much as designing and installing your gardens.  It’s not the most glamourous or appreciated task, but it’s the key to an overwhelmingly successful garden. You’ve spent a lot of time, money and creativity creating your outdoor garden oasis so why not ensure its success through proper and essential watering techniques.  

It all starts with HOW you water.  

Throw out, donate, or incinerate those old fashioned water blasters or the budget watergun-style hose attachments.  Invest in this Dramm water wand; make sure you get the durable brass valve rather than plastic like pictured below. Nature knows best and the Dramm wand mimics natural rain superbly. It's pricier than your average wand, but their customer service is top-notch and they'll make sure it lasts you a lifetime.

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Take into consideration WHAT you are watering.

New perennial installations should be watered immediately after planting and it’s important to keep their roots consistently moist. Don’t wait until things are wilting before you take the cue to water. This can damage and weaken the plant and hinder success. You’re in the garden-- don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Stick your finger up to the second knuckle in several areas of the garden, potting soil may dry out faster at the rootball of the plants than the soil between the plants so check there too!

Established perennial beds (beds that are over 2 years old), should get an average of 1” of water a week. This means running a sprinkler  (invest in a good one!) for at least one hour on the entire bed. Remember that other objects and the angle of the water spray can cause “shadows” (insert photo of large tree casting shadow) to be cast over areas which means water will not reach those spots in the garden. Be sure to identify those areas and hand water as needed.  

Trees and shrubs-- we’ve all seen it: the well-intended waterer who sets a hose at the base of tree or shrub with the water gushing out at full force creating something that resembles the Mississippi River on a spring day. What you want to do is set the hose, with your Dramm wand attached, at the base of your tree or shrub at quarter power for an hour. Move the hose a few times to encourage even soaking. This ensures that the water will go deeply in the soil and roots.

WHEN are you watering?  

A cool spring morning?  A hot summer afternoon?  An early evening during an unexpected fall drought?  Identifying which of these scenarios applies to you greatly affects your approach to watering:

  1. You got a jump start on the season (for once!) and took advantage of newly stocked nurseries chocked full of the hottest new perennial varieties that are all too hard to resist.  It’s been a cool Spring so you’ll need to water every other day for the first week and then 2-3 times per week after that.  
  2. If you didn’t quite have your act together in spring and, rather, you found yourself out in the 85 degree mid- Summer sun planting your perennials, you will need to water every day for the first week or so, depending on weather conditions.  After that, 2-3 times (or more if heat/drought are persistent) per week .
  3. Fall Sales!  Who doesn’t love those? If you’re like me, you can’t pass up a good deal.  Now is a good time to fill in those vacant spots in your gardens that have been driving you crazy all season.  These plantings will need to be watered every day or every other day for the first week and then 1-3 times a week depending on weather conditions.

Conditions that affect WHY you water:

Excess sun, wind, high temperatures, lack of rain, or plants located under an overhang all contribute to drier soil. Remember that having just one of these factors present is enough for a plant to dry out-so it could be cold, but if it’s windy, you still need to check for watering needs.

What about your annual containers?

If you're like me, you can’t resist a beautiful decorative container filled with flashy summer annuals.  Containers quickly jazz up those high profile spots like your front door or your back patio and ignite that WOW! factor.  But you have to be committed to watering your containers at least every other day all season long.  Containers that are especially root bound or have been established for several months will need more water.  Remember to ‘lift the skirt’ of the plants in order to get water all around the edges since that area dries out first, as one of our landscapers is showing below.  And, PLEASE, don’t fall prey to the urge to water in the same spot over and over creating a hole in the plant material that screams for a neon sign that says ‘Enter Here’.  

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Keeping these considerations and tips in mind next time you go out to water your garden will quite possibly turn a garden that seems to just be limping along to one that is given the opportunity to perform to its full potential.  

Happy Gardening!