El Dedon Verde

Water Properly

It may surprise you, but more plants are killed by over-watering than under-watering. That said, supplemental irrigation is critical until they’re established.

There are two important gardening chores that most people would rather not have to do, either because they don’t like it or they don’t have the time: weeding and watering. Personally, my attraction to weed-pulling is odd, I know. I’ll Zen out for hours pulling one weed at a time while listening to happy songbirds providing the background entertainment—no earbuds required.But watering is another one of those “mindless” tasks that I actually look forward to. Sure, there are soaker hoses, drip irrigation, and automated irrigation systems that can do most of that work. And I have them all. But I still enjoy watering by hand, and consider it a very important part of making sure I get new plants and trees off to the right start and well-established. Once that’s done, I really shouldn’t have to hand water ever again.

The most important time in a plant’s life as related to its chance of survival and future potential is right at the start. If you really want to have your best garden ever, these are the steps you must take to ensure that success: digging the proper hole, breaking up the roots of a pot-bound plant (more on this in a moment), adding mulch… and providing sufficient supplemental irrigation until the plant is established. Supplemental irrigation is such an easy step to overlook. You’ve done all the work to get your new plants in the ground, and now they’re on their own, or so you’d like to believe. But if you take this approach, you had better hope for a lot of consistent rain over the next several months. If you want to ensure you’re giving your plants the best chance for success, your job after planting is to help them acclimate to their new environment. Considering most plants have lived all their life in some sort of container, their roots have been able to grow only so far. And once they hit the walls of the planting hole they’re in, they don’t stop growing. But instead of penetrating the soil of that planting bed, the roots can continue to grow around and around, as if they were still contained in the pot the plant was sold in. Left unchecked, the growing plant can weave a mass of roots that gets tighter and tighter over time. Eventually it can becomes so tightly tangled that the roots will no longer even absorb water. This is why I mentioned preparing the roots above. When planting new trees and shrubs, even young vegetable seedlings, this root-bound habit happens quickly and only gets worse over time. Your job is to liberate those roots so they have new territory to explore as they get established in their new environment. And this is why supplemental watering is so important at this stage. Suffice it to say, once plant roots become liberated from their container and you’ve untangled them, they are a sponge for soaking up much-needed water as they start to put on new growth to meet the demands taking place above ground.

Extra help from you is needed at this critical stage, until there’s sufficient new root growth to take in enough water on its own to sustain life independently. How long does that take? It depends. But assume it’s at least several weeks up to a few months. Not very scientific, I know. But this is one of those times you have to be in tune with what’s going on with your plants and soil. And that takes paying attention on your part, especially during this time.