Watering Plants Guide – A garden or flower bed can begin with beautiful plants, but their continuing growth and beauty will depend on whether they are receiving the proper amount of water. This is especially important since over 90% of a plant consists of water. Your plants’ water requirements are dependant on the type of plant, the plant environment, the type of soil and the amount of time and energy that you have to spend in watering.
The results of a proper watering schedule can produce a healthy plant with a good root system, the ability to resist disease and the capability to grow, flower and multiply.
Choose plants for your landscape and your lifestyle
It is beneficial to choose plants that are adapted to the location that you plant them in. Determine if they prefer sun versus partial shade or shade. A sunny area will require more water because of evaporation. You also need to consider whether the plant is drought tolerant or requires more water, whether it prefers a well drained soil or will do well in a clay soil, and whether the plant will be a large plant with a great amount of foliage or remain small. Your climate may be a large influence on the types of plants you choose. Plants that are naturally adapted to your area will thrive better.
If you buy plants from a nursery, ask questions about the amount of fertilizer and type of watering they have received. If a plant is pampered with frequent fertilizing and/or shallow watering, they will initially require that same attention and it may take time to adapt them to a water schedule better suited to your flower garden
Water deeply and less frequently
It is best to adapt the plant to a schedule that provides deep watering on a more infrequent time schedule than to water shallow and everyday. This will influence the plant to grow deeper roots which is healthier for the plant. When plants are small and first transplanted, they will require water often during the first week or two. Gradually retrain them by watering deeper and less often during the next several weeks. It is especially beneficial to do this in the early part of the season before the heat of summer will be working against you. Eventually, you should be able to do a deep watering a few times a week, unless extreme heat or a dry wind create circumstances that prevent this schedule.
For plants that do not require well drained soil or very dry conditions, place a mulch on top of the soil will help preserve the soil moisture and aid in preventing evaporation. On sloping landscapes, mulch will also help hold the soil in place and slow run-off.
Depending on the soil type, do not over water your plants. Plants require a healthy relationship of soil, water and air. If the soil is kept too damp, it will not allow for enough air around the roots and the plant will suffer suffocation. This will be evident if you notice wilting, yellowing, dry foliage and leaf drop. The soil should be damp and not “muddy”. Likewise, under watering can also damage the plant because the roots will not have enough moisture to send up the plant to the foliage. Generally the roots of an under watered plant will dry up.
Test your soil to determine its water holding capacity, infiltration rate and drainage
Before you plant, test your soil for its watering properties. Water will penetrate sandy soil faster and deeper but will also evaporate faster. Loam soil will accept water at a slower rate but not as slow as clay soil. Clay soil has a tendency to retain water longer. Water a small spot and using a trowel, make an opening that allows you to reach down between 3-5″. When watering the spot, use a small container or can to measure how much water was applied. When well watered, the soil at the bottom of the hole should feel cool and damp. If the soil holds too much water and does not drain well, it will create of problem of root rotting. Test the soil, with a new hole each time, for several days to determine how fast the soil dries to the point of needing re-watering. Keep in mind that weather conditions can quickly change the watering schedule and adjust accordingly.
Conditions that will affect the soil infiltration rate and drainage are the soil properties, the slope of the land and compaction. The soil properties of sand or clay can be changed with the addition of organic matter. Adding organic matter can make clay soils accept water quicker and will help sandy soils hold water longer. Plant beds that are on a slope will have greater run-off and can be aided by mulch or by building up raised areas on the downward side of the slope to slow run-off and allow for a better infiltration rate. Soils that are compacted will have a poor infiltration rate and will not provide enough air to the soil, water ratio for the plant roots to grow properly. Aerating, mulching, adding organic matter or wetting agents can be used to loosen the compacted soil. Organic matter should be added to a depth of 6-8″ deep for the best results.
Watering container plants
Since a container planter has a limited volume of soil and water capacity, the watering schedule will be more frequent. A good rule of thumb is to water when the surface feels dry to the touch. Plastic or solid containers will retain the water better than porous or clay pots. Too much water or poor drainage in a container planter will not allow enough air to the roots and drown the plants. The bigger the pot, the more drainage holes it will require. Even though container planters require a more frequent watering schedule, it is not advisable to water too excessively during hot weather to avoid the sauna effect resulting in cooking the roots of your plants.
It is worthwhile to consider the watering requirements of your plants, the environment, and your soil quality when planning a watering schedule for your plants. Grouping plants that have similar watering requirements and knowing your soils properties will allow for the best use of your water and your time. Training your plants to accept deep watering, less often will adapt the plant to grow a good, deep root system. Being informed before you plant and using that knowledge can help you have a beautiful and productive flower garden.