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Summer Watering Tips: Getting to the Root of the Problem

I’ve already begun anxiously watching the weather forecasts, as I’m nervous of the possibility of another stretch of weather with little or no rain. If this happens, everything changes for the gardeners at Minnetrista. We go from making improvements in the landscape to the basics of trying to keep plants alive. We can maintain the gardens with little rain, but it takes planning and thoughtfulness on how we water. For your own garden at home, keep the following tips in mind to help take some of the guess work out of watering plants correctly.     


First Thing’s First: How Much Water is Enough?

  • Annuals and vegetables by nature do not have an established root system. In the summer you should plan on watering them every day if they are in containers and every other day in the ground if your soil holds water well.  
  • Transplants, newly planted perennials, shrubs, and trees should be treated as if they are in a pot until they are established. This usually takes more than one spring season after being planted in the ground. Concentrate on the rootball, making sure it’s wet, afterward wetting the area around the rootball to encourage faster root growth into the soil.
  • Water deeply—six to twelve inches every time. Six inches should be fine for turf. “Soak the plant completely,” is what I always tell our gardeners. The soil should be saturated. This will buy you time before the next watering and encourage faster establishment.
  • Another important tip to remember is not to guess at how wet a plant is. Dig down deep to find out whether or not you’ve thoroughly watered the plant and its roots. In a dry bed it can take a long time!      

Different Ways to Water

I recommend using soaker hoses. They are relatively inexpensive and do a great job of making sure the water ends up where it needs to be, on the ground. Another positive aspect about soaker hoses is that you can hook them up, turn on the water, and walk away. After doing this a few times you should know how long it takes to water adequately. Soaker hoses can be covered with mulch as well. 


Sprinklers and overhead irrigation will always lose water to evaporation, and wet foliage encourages disease in many plants. If you use them to water, do so in the morning to reduce these possibilities.


When watering trees, a garden hose placed at the base of the tree with a slowly running stream of water is a good method. An even better way to water a tree is to purchase irrigation bags that surround the tree trunk and can be filled with water, usually around fifteen to twenty gallons. A tree needs ten gallons of water plus five more for every inch of diameter. We monitor trees for the first three years after initial planting, to maintain their water needs.


I hope these tips help you think about how to meet your plants’ water needs. Do you have any questions about the best way to water your garden? Or more tips you would like to share to help your fellow gardeners water successfully? Leave them in the comment section below!