- Our soils are clay and therefore tend to retain moisture once saturated. If you live along the sand ridge close to the lake your soil may drain much more freely and new plantings may need more frequent watering than clay soils.
- Overwatering and underwatering are equally disastrous. Remember new plants are on a limited root system, so the objective of each watering is to moisten the entire soil ball, allowing the soil surface to dry somewhat before watering again.
- The larger, deeper root balls of trees and shrubs are ideally watered by hand. This allows you to efficiently direct the water to the plant without the waste of a sprinkler. Remember, there’s a reason plants are mulched – you don’t have to water as frequently.
- If you’re not sure, feel under the mulch. If the soil surface is dry under the mulch, it’s probably time to water.
- Plants in full sun and plants that are unmulched need more frequent watering. Do mulch!
- If you don’t want to water by hand, place the hose on slow trickle and move it in quadrants so that the entire root system receives the same amount of water. The trickle can be tricky. If you don’t move the hose around equally, it's possible to have one part of the root system flooded and another side bone dry. Not good!
- Sprinkler systems are fine for newly planted, shallow-rooted annual, perennial, and ground cover beds, but not so good for trees and shrubs with deeper root systems. If you use soaker or seeper hoses, make sure you interlace them so hose is resting on all sides of the top of the root ball or you’ll only water partially.
- Think of new plants as intensive care patients. Check on them daily and water as needed. It's best to water before plants wilt.
- Any time we have rains of 1” or more per week you get to wait a few days before thinking about watering again.
Watering balled, burlapped, or large potted Trees, Evergreens and Shrubs:
- Again, the important principle is that when you decide to water, you need to moisten the entire soil ball from top to bottom and side to side. When that's accomplished you’ve done a great job until it is needed again.
- Consider this tip: While the plant is sitting above ground waiting to be planted, get your hose out with the bubbler or watering wand attached that you’ll be using to water for the season. Time with whatever method you like, but start watering and keeping track of the time you’re applying water to the root ball. Go ‘round and ‘round the ball until the water starts running uniformly out of the bottom of the burlap or container (if potted). Look at your watch, record the time (in your mind or on paper, if need be) realizing this will give you a rough idea of the quantity of water and time needed to water well once it’s made its new home in the ground!
- If you’re watering thoroughly once or twice a week on large root balls (that are mulched) that's probably fine for the first 4 to 6 weeks. The interval can be stretched (or not) as the growing season progresses allowing for: heavy rains, excessive temperatures, and hot, drying winds.
- A 2-3” layer of organic mulch is your best insurance against under watering. Don’t overlook mulch- it’s a must!
- Allow for a year of establishment per each 1” of trunk diameter. So, you’ll be checking a 3” tree periodically even after the first year if we have extreme heat or drought.
Watering small potted trees, shrubs and evergreens:
- Read bullet #1 for large trees and shrubs, the principle is just the same- Thoroughly moisten the soil ball.
- Because container plants are generally in a soil mix that is much lighter than the surrounding garden soil it’s now planted in, that “artificial” soil ball will dry out far more quickly than the large clay root ball of a balled & burlapped plant. This is especially true if your smaller plants are installed in the increasingly hot temps of summer. So, check daily to see if water is needed. Please note I didn’t say “You must water daily”. It’s check daily, water if needed, and it might be necessary to water daily IF it’s 95 every day and hasn’t rained in weeks.
Some common landscape plant and their water requirements. This is NOT meant to be a full list, but may be useful:
- If you’re not sure whether to water or not, the following plants prefer to be dryer than wetter: Boxwood, Rhododendron, Spruce, Yew, Fir, Pine, Juniper, Sugar Maple, and Holly, to name a few.
- Some favorites that are best to err on the side of keeping moist: Hydrangea, Viburnum, Spirea, Barberry (first year only), Birch (especially River), Arborvitae, and Redbud.
- Watering ground cover beds, Pachysandra, English Ivy, Euonymus (Wintercreeper) and Vinca (Myrtle): Even though they are planted from small pots they can be watered with a water wand or with a sprinkler like annuals. But the four varieties mentioned above can be allowed to dry somewhat between waterings.
If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to ask questions of Chalet staff for the specific needs of the plants you’ve purchased!
Chalet’s Chief Horticulture Officer