Everything you need to know about watering outdoor plants in the summer

Everything you need to know about watering outdoor plants in the summer
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Temperatures are skyrocketing in Louisiana, and your garden is feeling the heat! In a perfect world, we’d all have drip-irrigation systems professionally installed with perfect coverage for the entire landscape (and they’d all be pulling from a 2000-gallon rainwater collector, of course!). However, in the real world, most people are still using a hose or watering-can to get the job done. Whatever your watering setup, you’ll want to be aware of how changing temperatures and climate affect your routine. If you’ve noticed your plants wilting more while watering them like you always have been, this is why!

In this article we’ll discuss the “dos and don’ts” of watering for all different types of plants found in the landscape. We’ll also get into how watering changes from season to season, especially as summers get more oppressively hot. Finally, we’ll see why watering methods for potted plants vs in-ground are so different.

Watering Woody Plants vs Herbaceous Plants

“Woody” is a very general term used to describe the main body of plants like shrubs and trees. These plants tend to have more expansive root systems which allow them to draw water from deeper in the ground. This allows them to withstand periods of drought much easier than their herbaceous counterparts. This does not mean that they require *less* water. On the contrary, they actually require a much deeper soak when watering, just less frequently.

Since woody plants (usually) survive for many years, they will experience periods of dormancy. This state of dormancy is important because the plant is not nearly as active, and will not need anywhere close to the same amount of water. Watering large trees the same amount from the blistering summer months as the winter will lead to muddier yards, fungal issues, and possibly rotting root systems.

So, how do you actually water woody plants? Besides thoroughly soaking on a less frequent schedule, be sure you are watering the part of the plant that matters – the roots. Roots are what absorbs water to the body of your trees and shrubs. This is why it’s often worth the investment in drip-irrigation systems for multiple trees and large hedges; you can get water where the plants need it most without standing around with a hose for what feels like hours. Further, many gardeners overspray onto their trees and shrubs when hand-watering. Overspray onto leaves and trunk is a less efficient way to water, and may lead to problems from slower growth to more serious issues like disease. I would personally rather a customer water the ground in a very wide area around the base of the plant vs hitting the leaves or directly on the trunk of the plant.

“Herbaceous” is another general term that describes bedding flowers, annuals, and most perennials. Their stems are green and more delicate, or “fleshy”. Herbaceous plants typically have smaller, shallow root systems that can easily be damaged by sunlight and heat-stress without proper mulching. They’re more susceptible to droughts and require frequent but light watering.

While it’s still possible, root rot is less of a concern with herbaceous plants if you’re properly watering. Don’t be afraid to water multiple times a week, or even multiple days in a row when it’s especially hot. Where the surrounding soil of woody plants will be heavily watered and left alone to dry out for extended periods, herbaceous plants need their soil at a constant level of dampness.

When customers ask how to hand-water their annuals – daylilies, for example – I’ll tell them to keep the nozzle of the hose as close to the soil as possible. Overspray is still an issue for herbaceous plants, and this is the best way to avoid it. For some landscape setups, it’s unreasonable to expect zero overspray, so don’t stress yourself out over this. All gardening tips are about moving the needle just a bit in your favor.

Even with a little overspray, your annual and perennial plants will appreciate the extra help staying cool. Just remember, watering can only do so much. In combination with some light mulch and the proper amount of sunlight, you’ll be head and shoulders above most novice gardeners!

Watering in Different Seasons: Summer vs Winter

The difference between watering in the hottest part of the year vs the coldest is intuitive. Plants are less stressed in the cool season and can hold their moisture for longer periods of time. However, when it is time to water, hold back on the amount of water only slightly. I like to tell people that cooler seasons should change your frequency of water much more than the actual amount of water. Regardless, always take precautions by testing soil moisture a couple inches below the surface. You’ll be surprised how much moisture can be retained when the sun isn’t beaming heat on the plants.

For the summer months, be more generous with watering frequency and slightly more generous with the amount of water. Watering in the summer months is one of the first things our outdoor staff must learn. If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you to let your hose run for a minute or two before spraying any plants! Spraying your plants with leftover hose water can stress them out when they need relief the most. Especially in the warm season, leftover water can feel almost boiling hot! Doing this every time you water is a great habit, and will keep your plants looking perky.

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Watering Potted Plants vs In-Ground Plants

Plants in your landscape – especially plants with naturally large root systems – are given the freedom to expand. Like I mentioned previously, they have the benefit of a larger area of moisture to draw from. This means that in most cases your in-ground plants will want deeper, but less frequent watering. Comparing this to potted plants, the roots are constricted. Even for plants with naturally shallow and small root systems, pots will eventually be a limiting factor. You can of course get larger pots or smaller plants, but going too big could lead to water-logged soil. So, don’t fight against these factors! This is exactly why we and all garden centers sell a dedicated potting mix. Potting mixes contain just the right combination of organic materials to let water freely pass through the soil. Potted plants will always have more roots than soil compared to in-ground plants. You’re using a pot because it looks great on the patio, and unfortunately will have to be more careful about soil-choice and watering habits because of it.

I mentioned drip-irrigations and rainwater collectors somewhat sarcastically before, but that’s not to say I don’t think they work! They are an amazing addition to your home. With modern irrigation systems, it can pretty much automate the entire watering process. As for rainwater, it’s hard to dispute the benefits of extra nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide for your plants. However, getting the systems in-place to make this work for a large landscape or yard can be prohibitively expensive – much more so than the plants in some cases.

If you are looking for an upgrade but don’t have the budget for professional installations and high-tech systems, soaker hoses and homemade driplines are available / can be made with products from Louisiana Nursery! If you’ve only got a few shrubs, flowers, and a tree or two, you can definitely get by with the rainwater from a single 50-gallon barrel. Just like when you first designed your garden, be imaginative. DIY guides are in endless supply and may be something we’ll offer in a future article. So long as you keep your plant from looking like this (right), you’re doing great!

The Louisiana Nursery Garden Club is a great way to reward our customers for shopping with us. Plus, you’ll get access to our weekly newsletter full of pro tips and all our specials. Visit www.louisiananursery.com/garden-club to sign up today.



About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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