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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman


With the hot weather we're now experiencing, it's essential that you water your new and established plants the right way.

FOR NEW TRANSPLANTS: Even xeric (waterwise plants) regular watering during the first growing season is essential to growing a strong, deep root system. Don’t water stress new plantings!! BY WATERING DEEPLY AND FREQUENTLY AT THE START OF THE SUMMER HEAT, you’ll save water in the long run as the plants will establish more quickly. At this point (start of June), your transplants will need watering every other day if they have been mulched. If they aren't mulched, smaller plants will require daily watering. But save water and make the effort to mulch! If you haven't mulched yet, you're stressing your plants: Go out and put your hand on the bare soil that surrounds your young plants (not mulched) around 3 PM in the afternoon. You'll feel the extreme heat on the soil's surface that your plants are suffering with. Mulching New Transplants: Place mulch materials (crushed gravel, coarse compost, pine needles or finely shredded bark) to a depth of one inch directly under perennial plants as well as covering a wide ring of any bare soil around them. Mulching reduces transplanting stress by keeping the soil more evenly cool and moist. For woody plants (trees, shrubs, and evergreens), the mulch layer should be 2 to 3 inches deep.

Make a Water Holding Saucer: When watering by hand, be sure the plants have a nice, wide, one-inch deep saucer-shaped depression around their base to hold water. I also filled the depression with mulch to keep the soil cool and damp. (Yes, I fill the saucer-shaped depression with mulch to help it hold its shape after repeated waterings.) Water twice: fill the saucer to near overflowing, let it percolate into the soil and fill the saucer again. Plants on a Drip System: If your plants are being watered on a drip system, and you have new transplants on the same watering zone as established ones, you'll need to program your irrigation controller using two schedules. One schedule should turn for at least 1 ½ hrs. once or twice per week. Then program a second schedule to come on every other day for 30 minutes to keep your new transplants adequately moist. Use a Gentle Root Stimulator on Transplants Use of Lady Bug® John's Formula or a Liquid Seaweed + SuperThrive mixture will help new transplants get off to a great start. Never use chemical fertilizers like Miracle-Gro or other brands (liquid or granular). This will stress the plants with unnecessary Nitrogen and force the plants to grow foliage when they need to grow their roots first.

FOR ESTABLISHED PLANTS AND LANDSCAPES: It’s much better to water more deeply and less frequently. You can train your garden to be more water-thrifty by doing it this way. In the heat of summer here in arid New Mexico, I water once every 7 days watering long enough that the water goes 8 to 12″ deep into the soil. Be sure that all your trees and shrubs are well mulched with a two-inch thick layer of wood chips, bark chips, crushed pecan shells or pine needles placed in a wide circle around their base. This will keep the soil cooler and moister. Perennial beds need a one-inch layer of mulch materials.

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