Watering 101

Proper watering techniques are essential for healthy plants, and when the weather becomes hot and dry during our Northwest summers, it becomes especially important to water correctly. Here are a few tips to help you water in the most efficient and beneficial way possible. Wise watering can save you time and money, as well as help your plants thrive.

Rule of thumb: It is always better to water deeply and less often rather than shallowly and more often. Frequent watering with small amounts of water creates shallow-rooted, thirsty plants.

New Plants

All new plantings, even drought-tolerant plants, need regular watering for at least the first 2 years until they can become established. Plants need to be watered when the soil has dried out slightly (an inch or so below the surface of the soil). Check daily for dryness during hot and dry periods and remember that containers often need to be watered daily in this type of weather as they dry out faster. When watering, be sure to concentrate the water on the soil directly over the root ball and avoid watering from high above. Water gently and deeply to saturate the root ball. If you aren't sure whether the water has saturated, dig a small hole several inches to see if it is penetrating (but avoid digging into the new plant's roots). If necessary, mound the soil into a "saucer" around the root area to contain runoff. Allow the soil surface to dry out a bit before future waterings.

Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems can help you effectively water while saving you time and money.

Established Plants

Once the plant has become established, the roots spread out. You will still want to concentrate the water on the soil just around the plant, watering the "dripline" root zone. This means watering the soil out as far as the plant is wide. Continue a regular, deep-watering schedule: the frequency of your watering depends on weather conditions and on the needs of your specific plants. Be sure to allow the soil to dry out slightly before you water the next time.

Morning is the best time to water, especially during hot weather, to avoid losing water to evaporation. However, if a plant is wilting “now” is the best time to water.

More information is available on our blog in the article Best Watering Practices for the Northwest Garden.