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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

Gardeners, Start Your Watering Now!

It looks like the warm temperatures of spring are settling in. And as anyone who has been out in their garden digging, the soil is unexpectedly hard and dry. So, it’s especially important to start watering the plants you planted in the last year or two to avoid drought stress. And keep new transplants well mulched and regularly watered.

For New Transplants: Even xeric (waterwise) plants need regular watering during the first growing season. This is essential to growing a strong, deep root system. Don’t water stress new plantings!! By watering deeply and more frequently now and into June, you’ll save water in the long run. At this point (start of May), your new transplants will need watering every other day if they have been mulched. If they aren't mulched, smaller plants will likely require daily watering. But if you haven't mulched yet, you're stressing your plants and wasting precious water. 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 cool and evenly 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 fill the depression with mulch to keep the soil cool and damp. (Yes, filling the saucer-shaped depression with mulch will help the saucer 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 20 minutes to keep your new transplants adequately moist. Use a Gentle Root Stimulator on Transplants

Medina Fish Blend 2-3-2 fertilizer (or Ladybug brand John's Recipe which is also a fish blend fertilizer) to 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. The photo below shows use of crushed 1/4 inch diameter gravel mulch on a bed of xeric native perennials.

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