To get a good comprehension of watering your plants we first need to have an understanding of some of the functions of your plants throughout the whole year and the soil you are putting them in. This guide will give you the knowledge to fall back on now and throughout the growth of your plants.
WHEN TO WATER
There is one major factor in watering, plant roots need to take in both air and water. What changes this balance of watering and draining throughout the year is seasonal weather change and root growth. The plant’s roots need to take in air between watering by giving the ground sufficient time to drain and pull air down to the roots.
Plants start to metabolize with the sunrise which makes a good time to water ensuring that the plant utilizes the water it is given.
Here in the greater Prescott area soil drainage varies from each homeowner’s yard to each spot the plant is rooted in. The time it takes for the ground to drain and dry can be tested before watering with a trowel digging down 4 to 6 inches in the water well and checking the soil. Water the soil when the soil is just damp or give it more time to dry if the ground is too wet. If the hole drains an inch per hour your drainage is good. If you’re dealing with an area that has poor drainage where a five gallon hole filled with water can take over 24 hours to drain you may have a layer of caliche (a cream or white colored layer of calcium carbonate). The best way to handle this is to manually break through that layer with some sort of digging bar or by pounding a rebar like object through the caliche layer.
Plants store water in their roots, so the more established a plant is the more volume of water it can hold. With a newly planted root ball its capacity to hold water is small and more frequent watering is needed. Over time, and root growth, more volume of water should be added with less frequency of watering. A good starting point for water volume is to fill your water well 4 inches high with water. If your well is 2 inches high; then water, let drain and water once more to reach 4 inches.
During the growing season (March thru October) an established plant will need water once or twice a week. During hot, dry and windy times around two or three times a week. Be sure to check the soil’s dampness at the same depth as the plant’s root ball, because hot dry winds can make the top few inches of soil dry but the soil farther down can still be wet.
Winter watering (November thru February) will be around twice monthly unless there is adequate precipitation through snow or rainfall. This is done to keep the roots moist, to be able to contract and expand with the constant freezing and thawing of the soil.
WHERE TO WATER
A plant takes in the water, nutrients, and air it needs through the feeder roots, which are the tiny hairs at the ends of the roots. A plant’s roots are always moving farther out from the stem searching for nutrients. Most mature plants roots extend beyond the plant’s canopy. As you start with a watering well directly over the root ball remember to extend your well as the roots move out to an estimated diameter of 3-5 ft. for trees and 2-3 ft. for shrubs. This should hold enough volume of water to hydrate the plant. Plant roots stay in the first 3 to 4 feet of the ground. If you are watering quite frequently with a low volume of water, a higher volume of water should be periodically used to leach the salt down past the roots, because our water and soil PH is more alkaline. Be aware of what and how much fertilizer you are using, because it may add to the alkalinity of the soil. Most plants will show damage from salts (salt burn) by irregular yellow to brown spots in the leaf or on the leaf edges.