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Watering New Plantings

Proper watering is the most important factor for a planting to succeed. New plants must be watered regularly until they are established, and mature plantings are most likely to thrive and look their best, if they receive regular water. It is important to keep the soil. around roots of new plantings moist, but not waterlogged.

The best rain is a light, soaking one, that lasts several hours. Storms that produce heavy rain in a short amount of time don't penetrate the soil deeply, and often only the surface of the ground gets wet.

If possible, water in the early morning, or evening. Avoid watering the foliage, as this can spread diseases. Water at the base of the plant, and all around the root zone, slowly and deeply, letting the water soak into the entire depth of the root zone. The amount to water varies with plant water needs, soil type, sun and wind exposure & topography, so it is a good idea to check the soil moisture regularly with your hands. Feel with your fingers, several inches down, just outside the root ball.

Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered regularly for 2-3 years until their root systems become established. Large transplanted trees may take longer.

  • Check & water every other day for two weeks,

  • During hot weather and dry periods when there is little to no rain, new trees and shrubs may need to be watered 2-3 times per week.

  • Otherwise, water once/week

  • Small to medium shrubs need about 6-8 gallons/week.

  • Small container-grown trees and large shrubs need 10 gallons/week.

  • 1.5-2" caliper B&B trees need about 10 gallons/1" trunk diameter.

  • If it rains, watering should be reduced accordingly.

Ground-covers & Perennials:

  • Water every other day for first month

  • During hot weather and dry periods when there is little to no rain, new plants may need to be watered 2-3 times per week.

  • Otherwise, water once/week

  • Most perennials and grasses need about 2-4 gallons of water/week, half that if a plant prefers drier soil

  • If it rains, watering should be reduced accordingly.

Watering by hand: Place an open hose with a slow trickle a little away from the base of the plant. For a tree, let it run about one hour in 3 positions around the base of the plant. A shrub won’t need to run as long a time, but the method is the same, a total of 15-20 minutes at 2-3 positions around the plant should be adequate.

Small plants need to be watered more frequently and for shorter times than trees and shrubs. You can use a watering wand with a shower head on the end of the hose and water each plant individually for 15-20 seconds. Move on to the next plant, and then repeat a second time. Large areas of ground cover can be watered with an overhead sprinkler several times a day for about 20 minutes each time. Do not water overhead within 3-4 hours of dusk to avoid promoting disease.

Soaker hose method: Soaker hoses can be pretty good at watering slowly and deeply in small areas. Attaching a timer easily lets you control the duration of watering, without having to keep a watchful eye. The soaker hose should be placed such that all sides of the plant receives water. This can be achieved by either wrapping a circle around individual plants or laying rows of soaker hoses throughout a plant bed. One disadvantage is the maximum length of soaker hose is 100’, so larger areas require a more elaborate arrangement of hoses. Soaker hoses seem to work best at a low pressure, so do not turn the valve on all the way.

Drip Irrigation:

For larger plantings, I prefer a drip irrigation system. It does the best job of watering efficiently and evenly. Also, it lasts longer & is less prone to clogging. Drip line is easy to repair if a line gets nicked. One controller can service multiple zones, and the length of watering can be varied for each zone, allowing different watering amounts for different zones. So an area that doesn’t need as much water might run for a shorter time. The controller can also turn on zones at different times and days, so, for example, one zone might get watered twice/week and another only once. The goal with drip irrigation is to set the timer to water early in the morning, when there is least evapotranspiration, and let it run for an extended time, allowing the water to penetrate the ground slowly and provide a good deep soaking. Best of all, once a system is programmed, everything can be left to run automatically.

Each zone has a pressure regulator and filter, to provide even water and prevent clogging. The system is connected to a plumber-installed back flow preventer, so there is no danger of household water supply contamination. In the fall, the lines are blown out and water removed from the system, but everything else stays year after year.

Rue Sherwood Landscape Design creates custom gardens and landscapes throughout the North Shore, from design through installation. Learn more about our services and explore our gallery of projects to see some of our recent work.

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