Water Efficiency: 5 Guidelines for Watering New Plants
Water being a precious world resource, it’s more important than ever to water your plants as efficiently as possible. These days so many of us have begun to be “eco-conscious” by selecting drought tolerant plants. While this helps conserve water in the long run, even these plants will require regular irrigation until they are established by the second or third growing season. So to maximize your watering efficiency, here are some guidelines to remember:
• Group plants together according to their water needs. Moisture-loving plants will thrive in a community with other plants that require the same level of irrigation, while plants that can take full-sun and lower water levels should also be grown together. That way you won’t over- or under-water a plant in the wrong spot.
• Water slowly, deeply and infrequently rather than often and sparsely. Speedy sprinkling does not properly irrigate the root systems of any plant — and if done on hot days, much of the moisture is lost to evaporation anyway.
• A good principle is to fill the plant’s entire root zone with water and then let the soil partially dry before re- watering. The smaller the root zone, the more quickly it will dry out and require more irrigation. You can poke about the planting area with a trowel or spade to determine the efficiency of your watering efforts.
• Roots move toward moisture, so be sure to water both the plant’s original root ball and the soil around it—
helping ensure that roots move out into the native garden soil. It is important to water deeply to penetrate down into the root zone. Light watering encourages roots to grow near the surface of the soil, where they may become damaged by foot traffic and exposure to sunlight.
• To help your plants get established, especially after their first full year in the garden, you can try gradually reducing the frequency of watering during dry spells. Perhaps you can water twice a week instead of daily. This technique will encourage plants to expand their roots into the native soil in search of more moisture, rather than turning them into water junkies.