Landscape planting in summer has always been risky. Newly-installed plants need frequent, sometimes daily watering until they get established. Even regular rainfall won’t penetrate more than a few inches, so container-grown or “ball & burlapped” plants need special attention for the first few months after they are installed. Summer can bring drought, hot sun and drying winds, which can turn newly planted landscapes to crispy toast in as little as one day. The best solution is automatic drip irrigation.
Commercial growers have perfected drip irrigation on a massive scale. Drip irrigation can deliver exactly timed precise amounts of water directly to plant roots without any effort, once the system is in place. Greenhouse and nursery growers depend on drip systems to keep huge crops alive. A scaled-down drip irrigation system for your home landscape is actually quite realistic, and could save back its cost by reducing plant losses due to dryness. Landscape installers like GoodSeed Farm routinely offer automatic drip systems in new landscapes.
Drip irrigation is vastly different from automatic sprinkler systems, which saturate entire lawns and gardens by spraying water on them from above. This practice is very wasteful of water. Overhead sprinklers can damage plants by wetting their foliage, causing sunburn damage and promoting fungus diseases. Sprinklers waste water by evaporation loss and by watering areas other than the plant roots themselves.
A common solution is so-called “soaker hoses” laid on the ground around the landscape. These devices won’t wet plant foliage, but they are very inefficient and imprecise. Plants that are closer to the water source get over-watered, while plants at the “end of the line” dry up. Like sprinklers, soaker hoses put water where no water is needed, but aren’t good for deep-root soaking right at the base of the plant. Since newly installed plants don’t have wide-ranging root systems yet, soaker hoses and sprinklers allow them to dry out.
Drip irrigation uses tiny tubes, one for each plant, to deliver water precisely where it’s needed and nowhere else. By selecting the proper size injector tip for each tube, you can adjust the amount of water to suit the size and thirst of each plant individually. The overall system is on a timer, so it performs watering duties at the exact timing, duration and frequency you decide.
Homeowners who enjoy gardening may find watering chores to be relaxing therapy, a chance to connect with your garden. You can find detailed advice about proper watering in my column “Watering Plants – How, When & Why” at this link: https://goodseedfarm.com/ArticleWatering-Plants-How-When-Why.htm with more tips at this link: https://goodseedfarm.com/ArticleWatering—Avoid-Drowning-Your-Plants.htm . If the thought of daily watering duties is deterring you from landscaping, you should consider drip irrigation for newly-installed plants.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in outdoor living spaces. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.