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Newly planted trees, shrubs, & perennials
Newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials, with roots close to the surface and not out into your native soil, require special watering. Their roots can't access the water in the native soils, so the entire root ball must be saturated on a daily basis in hot weather gradually going to every other day, depending on plant type and weather conditions. It takes at least a year before their roots grow out and can properly access the moisture in the surrounding soil.
The very best way to water is using a drip system, which delivers the water right to the root ball. Make sure the drip tubes are delivering the water to the center of the top of the root ball and not just to the side. Run the drip system daily for ample time to saturate the root ball. Drip tubes should be run long enough to deliver 2 gallons of water to shrubs and 4 gallons to trees each time it runs.
Don't rely on the spray heads of your sprinkler system or hose to deliver water to the root ball. The spray often hits the foliage and bounces off, missing the root ball and saturating the surrounding soil. When watering with a hose, deliver the water right to the root ball. Make a well or mote with the surrounding soil around the outside of the root ball to trap the water so it will soak straight down. Turn the water pressure down to let it slowly deep soak. Make sure the top of the root ball is exposed and not covered by your native soil. It's okay to apply mulch over the root ball. If you are using rock as a mulch, keep it off the top of the root ball, as it may hold too much heat.
As the weather cools down, later this fall, water the same, but less often. Gradually go from daily to 3 times a week and finally to once a week in very cool weather. Remember to water late in the fall, right up until the weather is extremely cold. If you have turned off your sprinkler system, drag out your hose. If we have a warm, dry winter give your plants an occasional deep soaking to prevent winter loss and damage.
Established tree, shrubs, & perennials
Because older plants have established root systems, they should not need to be watered daily. Drip systems can be run 3 times a week. Drip tubes should be run long enough to deliver 2 gallons of water to shrubs and 4 gallons to trees each time it runs. Sprinklers, both automatic and hose-end, should run accordingly.
As the weather cools, continue to water the same, but less often, going from 3 times per week to 2, and eventually to 1 deep soak a week in very cool weather. Continue to water until the weather is extremely cold. As with newly planted plants and trees, be aware plants may need watered during the winter if the temperatures are warm and the ground is dry.
Lawns should be watered on a regular basis during hot weather. It is always better to water longer, but less often. Watering everyday promotes a shallow root system, which is not a good situation. By allowing the top soil to dry between grass, roots will grow deeper in the soil to find the water. This will promote a better lawn.
Apply 1/2 inch of water at each watering. Test sprinkler heads by placing a straight sided container on the lawn. An empty tuna fish can works great for this. Allow it to fill to 1/2 inch to determine how long to run that station on your sprinkler system. Spray heads put out a lot more water then large rotor heads. Some stations may only run a short time and others may require up to one hour or more. As the weather cools you may need to adjust the time. This also applies if you are watering with a hose.
In hot weather you may need to run the system three times per week. As the weather cools in the fall or in the spring, two times per week will work, gradually decreasing to once a week.
If there are areas in your lawn that will not green up, no matter how much you water, you should check for lawn insects. Dry spotting is what their damage appears like. Learn more about lawn insect damage>
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