Having plants in your landscape is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is functional as well. They can provide shade for outdoor living areas, block sunlight from entering into your home and absorb light that is reflected through your windows. In order to achieve their maximum benefit however, understanding their watering schedule is essential.
Everyone has the basic understanding that plants require more water during the warmer months. However, the correct watering schedule is easily misunderstood. Keep in mind that the goal you are trying to achieve is strong, healthy roots. To achieve this, there are a few items to consider assuming you are using a drip irrigation system.
The goal for each watering is to completely fill the entire root zone. An easy way to test this is to insert a thin metal rod in the soil surrounding the plant after a watering cycle. It should pass through the saturated soil easily until it reaches dry soil. Measure how much of the rod was inserted and compare to average root depths. While trees can have roots as deep as 24-36 inches, shrubs can reach 18-24 inches deep. Groundcover, vines, cacti and succulents will typically have shallower roots from 8-12 inches deep.
The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has developed a chart that provides watering frequency guidelines based on plants established for at least one year and at least three years for trees. From March through May it indicates that most desert adapted plants only need to be watered every 14-30 days. Plants requiring higher amounts of water should typically be scheduled every 7-10 days. Cacti and Succulents only require supplemental watering every 21-45 days. These recommended frequency rates are assuming two hours or more for each watering. These recommendations can be affected by weather (warmer spring than usual), type of plant (roses versus a Mesquite tree), and soil type (compacted soils take longer to absorb water through the root zone). Please keep in mind that if your plant is not accustomed to this schedule, that it is very important that you make a gradual transition.
There are obvious signs that indicate whether your plants are receiving an inappropriate amount of water or not. If it is not receiving enough, younger leaves may curl or wilt while older leaves may turn yellow or brown and then drop off. While under watering plants can be dangerous to their health, over watering can have a negative impact as well. Such signs include soil that is constantly damp, leaves that turn a lighter green or yellow, or mushrooms and algae that begin to grow in the vicinity of the plant. Over watered plants may also have leaves that maintain a green appearance yet become brittle.
Here are a few tips to help you water your plants more efficiently.
- Apply a layer of mulch beneath the canopy. This helps to retain soil moisture and minimize weeds.
- Remove weeds that are especially growing near your plant competing for its water.
- As the plant grows, expand the watering area by pulling the drip lines away to encourage the roots to grow further out, seeking water.
Plants are a wonderful resource to have surrounding your home. In order to achieve a lifetime of mature, healthy plants, be aware of the watering schedule and be ready to change the program as the seasons change.
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