Gardening 101: How to Wisely Water Your Plants



Over the past two posts in this series, we’ve given what we hope to be some useful information for those who are just stepping into the wonderful world of landscaping and gardening. The first in the series gave a few guidelines to keep in mind when choosing the best plants at the garden center – color, form, and other. In the second post, we highlighted the value of the plant tag in determining whether or not the plant you love is compatible with the location you’d love to plant it – right plant, right place.


So, now that you have liberated the garden center's finest plants and you’ve determined that they are the right plant for the spot in the garden that you’d like them to fill, you’re ready to plant. Before you do, though, I’d encourage you to read one of our earlier posts, entitled: Planting and Staking.


And here’s why:

A [plant] that is planted poorly will have roots that develop poorly, with nutrient uptake potential that is poor, and pest resistance that is poor, with flower power that is poor, and longevity that is poor.

Don’t be discouraged, though. That post will explain all you need to know about planting. And if you’d like to learn more about soil, soil amendments, or fertilizer, you can find those articles in our "The Basics" series here.


But the aspect of gardening that I really want to stress today is watering. What!?!? Yes, watering. Don’t worry, I’ll make it brief and if, after reading this, you’re wondering if there might be even more information about watering that could have been shared, you can look at our full guide here. It will give you more of the back-story that I’ll leave out in the following.


1. How Often Should I Water?

For nearly all trees, shrubs, and perennials watering deeply once per week – through the entire season and well into November, often December – is all that’s needed. Some say frequent, light waterings are needed for new plants, but soil that is frequently damp leads to a root system that never digs in and provides a perfect environment for disease to overtake your plants. Stick with once per week. Some perennials in some conditions, and most vegetables will require two waterings per week. Annual flowers drink more water than the stadium serves beer, so they’ll need to be watered much more frequently.


2. How Deep Should I Water?

Deep watering is achieved by laying a hose at a slow trickle directly on top of the root mass and letting it run until the soil surrounding the plant is the consistency of quicksand. Not familiar with quicksand? Think pea soup or yogurt. Set the hose then go back to reading the above-linked articles for a bit – you won’t need to stay there while it’s watering in most cases.


3. How Long Should I Water?

How many minutes will that take? Unfortunately the time requirement will be different in different neighborhoods and even on different sides of your own property, so I stress the needed pea soup consistency of the soil when you’re done rather than the minutes you should expect to pass by. You should be able to stick the length of a tablespoon into the surrounding soil when you’re done.


4. Why Should I Water?

All land plants require a wet period and a dry period. The reason for the wet period is obvious – plants like water. But they also need to dry out between waterings. The dry period that plants need to go through not only helps to prevent disease, it also forces the root system to grow. As the water starts to evaporate and dissipate, the roots begin to grow. This is what you want. To grow a strong root system is to grow a strong plant. There truly is much more that could and has been said about watering – will my lawn irrigation system do it well? – but today’s reminder is just this: water. And water well.

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