Gardeners and landscapers have one thing in common with their "big
brother" the farmer: complaining about the weather. Ask any farmer
about rainfall and you'll be told that it is nowhere near enough or it
is way too much. Unlike Goldilocks' third bowl of porridge at the
three bears' house, it is never "just right!"
At this time of year, we try to remind ourselves about the old adage
that April showers bring May flowers... not to mention shrubs, bushes
and trees. So with April finally behind us, we can assess whether or
not our landscapes are actually getting the "just right" amount of
water... for once.
Too much water can be as bad (or worse) than not enough water for your
trees and shrubs. After all, if your soil is turning dusty from a dry
spell, you can always turn to your trusty garden hose. But drying out
waterlogged soil is a whole lot harder!
Here are a few quick watering tips for you to bear in mind...
When you're watering trees, remember that much of the water will be
absorbed by the roots at or beyond the drip line, not at the base of
the trunk. The root system of a mature tree can spread out 1 to 3
times the width of the canopy, so that's the most efficient area to
give your trees a drink.
When it comes to newly planted or young trees that have yet to attain
much of a canopy, water needs to be applied closer to the trunk area.
New trees need more water than established trees. As the tree matures
and the canopy spreads, widen the watering area. Once a tree is
established, reduce the frequency of watering.
Best time to water: Early morning or evening, so that less of the
water will evaporate in the midday sunshine. If you're watering in the
evening, avoid watering the foliage as this can promote the formation
of mildew and fungus.
Don't flood em! If you pour on too much water too fast, you're only
adding to the problem. You can cause erosion and compact the soil, as
well as wasting valuable water. Never apply water faster than it can
be absorbed by the soil.
Allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering. This allows oxygen to
be absorbed more easily. Use a soil probe or your own version
consisting of a thin metal rod. If you can push the probe fairly
easily into the soil but meet resistance at a depth of about 4 to 6
inches, it's time to reapply the water. Bear in mind that this a rule
of (green) thumb. If your nursery gave you specific watering
instructions, be sure to follow those.
Applying a layer of mulch under the tree's canopy will keep the soil
cool and help to avoid evaporation. It will also keep you from mowing
too close to the delicate roots and trunk where the whirling blades
can wreak serious havoc!
You can more comprehensive information about watering trees at
http://ag.arizona.edu/cochise/mg/wateringplants.htm and you can easily
click on a link to that site when you find this column archived under
the "Plant Man" heading at my Web site www.landsteward.org
Your specific needs can vary depending on your soil type, location and
weather conditions. I'll be happy to provide some personal advice on
the kind of trees and shrubs that will work best for you and your
landscape. Send me a few details at email@example.com and I'll
offer some ideas.
And now for a reader question...
QUESTION: "Last year I planted Red Sedum. What should I do this year
to prepare the plant for this growing season." Louise Kraybill
ANSWER: To prep your sedum for the new growing season, cut back to
the ground any old growth. Do not cut any new growth. At this time
make a light application of organic fertilizer and then put down fresh
mulch (up to 3 inches of organic compost is best) around, but not on
the plants. Water until the soil is totally moist and water weekly
during summer if there is little/no rainfall. This should get your
plants off to a great start.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org