After planning, prepping, and
planting those new spring beds now its time to kick back and enjoy them, right?
Well, not quite yet. It is essential that these young plants receive the
correct amount of water. A plant can only absorb water that is within its root
zone. New plants, understandably, have small root zones. Until they have had a
chance to spread their roots, which will take at least two weeks, check the
moisture at and around the base of the plants. Most plants will need water
every other day for the first two weeks. If it rains, do not assume everything
received enough water. Check to see if the ground is moist around the plants.
Methods of Watering:
There are many ways to water, from a hand held hose to automatic irrigation. New plants are not anchored into the soil yet, so water them gently no matter what method you use. Also, to prevent leaf molds, mildews, and fungi avoid watering the foliage if at all possible. Always water deeply. The soil should be moist to at least a 4" depth. If the bed is on a slope avoid water run off and erosion problems by watering a little bit at a time, moving the irrigation around until everything has received four inches of water.
The ideal time to water is early in the morning before the temperatures rise. This way you will not lose much water to evaporation and, as the day warms, water that fell on the foliage will be evaporated reducing the risk of fungal diseases. The worst time to water is in the middle of the day, especially when using over-head watering (sprinklers). Too much water is evaporated and the water on the foliage can cause scalding during the heat of the day. Evening watering is common because it is the most convenient time to water. The main problem with watering in the evening is that the water on the foliage of the plants does not have time to evaporate create prime conditions for fungal problems.
When using a hand held hose to water be sure to attach a nozzle or watering wand to the end of the hose that dispenses the water in rain shower style (Fig. 1). Do not use a mist nozzle or a power nozzle (Fig. 2). A mist nozzle will take a very long time to apply enough water to the soil and it will wet the foliage increasing the risk of fungal disease. Plus, a large amount of the water will evaporate in mid-air. So save your water bill and your plants. A power nozzle can cause immediate damage. It is anything but gentle, and will blast the plants' roots and splash soil everywhere.
Soaker hoses are wonderful things! They can be snaked among the plants in the bed, just under the mulch. Soaker hoses take a little longer to water, but you can just turn them on and leave them. Because they are on the ground there is virtually no evaporation. The water is applied directly to the soil so there is little risk of foliar fungal problems. You can use soaker hoses anytime during the day, but the best time is still in the morning.
Occillating sprinklers are usually used to irrigate lawn areas rather than bedding areas. Because this is a type of overhead watering all risks mentioned before apply. Therefore, be sure to water early in the morning.
There are many types of automatic irrigation. A system can have overhead sprinklers (with spray heads and/or rotary heads), and bubblers or drip lines at ground level. For more information on irrigation systems visit http://www.waterboysprinkler.com/irreq-sp.html.