Watering Landscape Plants in August

Watering Landscape Plants in August

Yes, the heat is on. Time to talk about watering your plants…specifically, why you want to water the area around the plant, not the leaves of the plant and not the stem or trunk. You see, when it’s hot I frequently see people hosing off the tops of their shrubs and trees. I know that they are thinking that the plant enjoys a nice, cool shower as much as a child loves cooling down in the sprinkler on a hot day. Unfortunately, as well intentioned as these folks are, they are not putting the water where the plant most needs it: around their roots.

It’s also human nature to go out with a hose and direct a stream of water at the base of the trunk or stem for a few minutes. Again, that’s well meaning, but doesn’t get the moisture where the plant really needs it to be: around their feeder roots. These roots extend under the drip-line (the area where rainwater hits the outermost foliage and drips down onto the ground) and beyond. A plant’s feeder roots are under the outside edge of their leaves and past that line into the soil around the plant. So to be most effective with your watering, be sure to dampen the soil under the drip-line and past that area.

Finally, water deeply less often. Spraying by hand for a few minutes a day might seem adequate to you but it barely dampens the top inch of soil…and if you have mulch around your plants, most of that hand-watering is absorbed by the mulch. If local laws say you must water by hand, by all means do so but find a way to keep yourself there for a longer period of time. (One man confessed to me that he was a cigar smoker and his wife didn’t let him light up indoors…so he would go out and water while savoring his cigar. To each his own!) But if you can water using a sprinkler, soaker hoses, or an irrigation system, do this every five to seven days for at least 2  to 3 hours to get a deep soaking.  Longer, but less often is the key. Using hose timers is a good way to know that your sprinkler or soaker system has been on for as long as you need it to be.

Although it’s best to water early in the morning, know that watering when the sun is out does NOT harm your plants. Those brown dots on plants are leaf-spot fungi, not a place that’s “burned” by a water drop in the sun.


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