Water is a key factor in keeping your new plants alive and healthy. Watering amounts and frequency must be adjusted according to soil types and weather. Too much water can be just as bad as not enough. Container plants are grown in a soil less mix that is very coarse and allows water to pass through it very fast. Under conditions of normal soil moisture, water moves from the more coarse container mix into the natural finer soil surrounding the plant.
In this case, the natural soil can be moist, but the container mix can be dry. Under these conditions, frequent, lighter waterings will be needed to establish and maintain your plants until they root into the natural soil.
Under conditions of high soil moisture (heavy rains), the water will move from the finer natural soils into the more coarse container mix. This creates a bathtub effect and under long periods will suffocate the roots. If your surrounding soil is moist, a relatively small amount of water needs to be applied frequently to keep the container mix moist and support plant growth. This is because one needs only to wet the container mix.
On the other hand, if both the surrounding soil and container mix are dry, a much larger quantity of water is needed since the water will be quickly drawn away from the container mix by the finer textured soil. Once the surrounding soil becomes thoroughly wetted, subsequent quantities of water can be reduced, but not the frequency rate, as the surrounding soil will continue to draw water away from the container mix.
This is why watering can be so confusing and no hard fast rule of quantity and frequency always applies. It must be constantly changed considering the environmental conditions. To give you a bench mark to start at, we recommend to water once thoroughly, each five to seven days during the first growing season when there is insufficient rainfall. Remember the size of the plant you are watering; a 12 foot tree is going to require more water volume than a 1 gallon perennial.
GENERAL RULES OF WATERING
- All newly planted material gets watered as soon as possible.
- For the next three weeks, be very observant, look at new plants daily for signs like wilting, etc.
- Monitor air temperatures, rainfall, soil moisture
- Check soil moisture by a) your finger b) pipe/plug method
- Drive an 18” length of pipe 8” into ground – extract plug and check moisture
- Air temperatures 60-85 degrees; water thoroughly once every seven days
- 1 inch of natural rainfall in a given week – skip watering until the following week
- As temperatures increase and natural rainfall decreases, increase amount watered
- Consistently hot/dry 85 degree plus days – water once every four days
- Small trees: 5-10 gallons of water per week
- Small shrubs: 1-3 gallons per week
- Perennials: ½-1 gallon per week
- Remember to check soil moisture and think about last week’s weather