Water your landscape properly

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 1, 2011

An important part of gardening successfully is learning to water your plants properly. Learning how to water properly is not complicated, but during hot, dry weather it can make a world of difference to the health of the plants in your landscape. New trees, shrubs and many warm-season bedding plants are planted in March, April and May. With intense heat right around the corner, watering will become increasingly important.
Most plants in the landscape, but particularly those planted this spring, may need supplemental watering during hot, dry weather conditions. Moisture stress due to lack of available water can result in reduced flowering, leaf drop, increased pest problems, substantial decline or even plant death and the loss of the investment they represent.
Gardeners use a variety of methods to water their plants, including hand watering with a hose or watering can, sprinklers of various types, soaker hoses and, occasionally, drip irrigation systems. Applying water deeply and thoroughly when needed is the key to proper watering.
Generally, trees, shrubs, lawns and ground covers that are well established in the landscape will need to be irrigated thoroughly once a week during extended hot, dry periods. Those planted this year, along with bedding plants and vegetables, may need to be watered thoroughly two to three times each week to do well under the same conditions.
Hand watering is ideal for watering plants growing in containers and hanging baskets. To water properly, apply water until you see it come out of the drainage holes.
Plants in containers have a limited amount of soil for the roots to grow in, and they dry out very rapidly during hot, dry weather. These plants often need to be watered every day, especially those growing in smaller pots.
Don’t allow container plants to wilt before watering them. Even though they may revive, wilting causes damage that can lead to bud drop, leaf drop and scorched leaf edges.
If you find that you need to water container plants more than once a day to prevent wilting, the plants are probably root bound and need to be repotted into a larger container, or you need to move them into a shadier location.
It is wonderfully relaxing to change into comfortable clothes at the end of the day, go outside and with your thumb over the end of the hose water plants in the landscape. But this shallow watering does not provide enough water to the plants, so it must be repeated frequently — often daily.
This practice also encourages plants to produce more of their root systems close to the soil surface, increasing their susceptibility to drought stress.
In other words, hand watering landscape plants may do more good for you than for the plants.

Dan Gill is a LSU AgCenter Horticulturist.

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