YES! Water Your Plants
It is important to water new plantings well their first year, particularly during long, dry hot spells. Drought resistant plants will be able to tough it out once established. Watering appropriately is essential to help any plant get established. A long, deep soaking every few days will greatly help the survival of your plants. All newly established plants require water.
How Do I Know When to Water?
To tell if the area needs water or not, wiggle your finger in to the soil a couple inches deep. If it is cool and moist, there is enough water for now. If it is dry, hard, sandy, crumbly, add water. A wilting plant can be a good sign that water is needed, but plants also wilt when overwatered. So feel the soil to determine if water is needed or not.
What About the Fall?
Anything planted this year should continue to be watered until it enters dormancy. This is particularly important for plants that you plant this fall. They will have a head-start next spring, but need water if the weather is dry during the fall.
What About Winter?
During a ‘normal’ winter – one where we have snow, cold temperatures, and frozen ground – watering is not needed. Sometimes we have an early warm and dry spell in late winter/early spring (late February or March.) If there is no snow melt to keep the ground moist and temperatures go into the 60’s and 70’s the plant may begin to transpire, swell their buds, or start to ‘wake up’ in other ways. If this is the case, give them a good soaking. Larger trees and shrubs should definitely be monitored during early warm dry spells. They do need more water than smaller plants, and you likely spent a bit of time or money to get them planted.
Remember, if the ground is frozen, or the soil is moist, or there is melting snow, no need to water.
How Should I Water?
When you do apply water, apply it slowly so it doesn’t run off. Make sure you have a thin layer of mulch over the root zones. This will help retain the moisture.
Here are a couple different ways you can water:
- Cover the bare soil with a thin layer of mulch. Carefully and gently water the surface with a hose set on the sprinkle setting. The water should seep into the dry mulch and soil, not run over the ground. Slow deep watering of the soil is what is needed. No need to spray the foliage of the plants. Imagine the water seeping deep into the soil and the roots going DOWN to get to the water.
- For trees, fill a five gallon bucket of water with a few holes or a crack in the bottom, and place it at the base of the tree. The water will slowly seep out and moisten the soil.
- Place a hose on a very slow drip for a few hours at the base of a tree.
- For a newly planted perennial garden, wind soaker hose around the plantings and run it every few days.
- If you are in a hard setting, such as in the woods or far from the house, a five gallon bucket of very wet mulch applied to the base of the plant will be helpful.
Here are additional tips for when it’s really hot and dry.
Thank you to a Facebook Post from the Native Plant Trust in Massachusetts:
- Let the lawn go. Turf grass may turn brown and crispy, but chances are its roots will survive underground.
- Spend your water budget on trees and shrubs, which are costlier to replace.
- Stop fertilizer. It fuels new growth, which needs more water and enlarges the plant, which then needs even more water. Without regular rainfall to wash it out, chemical fertilizer can build up to toxic levels.
- Postpone pruning woody plants. Like feeding them, pruning stimulates new growth.