Water Conservation Tip No. 5

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New trees and shrubs will need special watering care their first years in your garden. If they were in containers when you bought them they had probably been grown in very lightweight planting mixes to minimize weights for handling and shipping. Those lightweight mixes dry out very rapidly, especially since all of the plants’ roots are in them initially.

Here are specific watering tips to (a) conserve water and (b) preserve plants. This advice applies every summer without fail, whether we have had abundant rain or are in a drought.

Build a shallow retaining berm of soil around each new plant. Hopefully you did that at the time the plant was planted. We usually distribute the soil that is not needed during planting to build that berm. The berm lets you put extra water around each plant without the water running off.
Hand-water these new plants with a hose and a water breaker for their first growing season, particularly during the heat of the summer. All of their roots are within their original soil balls so they will dry out much more rapidly than adjacent established turf and landscape plants. Hand-watering is the most efficient way to accomplish the task. Whatever you do, don’t turn on your sprinkler system between its normal days of operation just to water these few new plants. Run it only as you normally would.
Apply 2 or 3 inches of organic mulch around the bases of the new plants. Mulches will keep weeds and grass from competing and they also lessen the soil-to-air contact and the drying it allows.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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