at The Charlotte Area, Charlotte, 28270 United States
Charlotte, NC Based. We are a landscape design and installation company offering experienced, educated service and advice.
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Watering Guide - By Nick Dillon-Stout of The Plant Guys – - Landscape Design, Installation, and Nursery – - Charlotte, NC – - Phone: 704-277-6624 – - Email: ThePlantGuysCharlotte@gmail.com - Maintaining the proper moisture is one of the most important aspects of caring for your landscape. Learning how to read the physical signals of your plants as they respond to various moisture levels and related environmental factors is what develops a “green thumb.” Because watering is the responsibility of the homeowner, The Plant Guys do not warranty against issues related to watering – however, we will always do our best to help you choose ideal plants for various moisture, sun, and heat conditions so that your plants will flourish if properly tended to. This involves “soaking in” newly installed plants, pointing out any concerns related to wet-spots or dry areas, as well as providing plant-specific information for specimens that take any particular care. The Basics In nature, plants flourish where the moisture, sunlight, and heat are at levels suitable to that specific plant. Weeping willows grow beside ponds, cacti grow in dry heat, and shade plants grow beneath shade trees. In landscapes, we are taking these plants out of their natural habitats and attempting to establish them in similar environments at home. This difference makes landscaping and gardening a form of art – manipulating soils, mulches, moisture, shade, and nutrients to create the ideal environments for each plant we add to our yards. While some plants like Maples, River Birches, Willows, Hydrangea, Lilies, and many blooming perennials like relatively consistent moisture, others such as Dogwoods, Camellias, Cherries, Gardenia, and Lavender will not tolerate “wet feet.” Always consider what kind of conditions these plants would be found in in nature when you are wondering how you should be watering your landscape. Since Cherry Trees don’t naturally grow in places where it rains every day, you shouldn’t be watering them every day in your yard. The Methods When you water your plant, the goal is to thoroughly soak the entire root system. On a small annual, this may only require a couple cups of water or a quick pass with a hose, but be mindful that, though the surface of the soil may appear wet, it is important that the deep roots get wet. Learning how much water that takes requires digging down into your soil after watering to ensure the water penetrated through the layers of soil. This is particularly important when watering trees, as their large rootballs sit deeper underground and may require multiple gallons of water to thoroughly soak the roots. If the water only reaches the surface-layers, the lower roots will die off and plants will struggle to stay alive. Furthermore, there will not be enough water underground to maintain proper moisture between waterings. The ability of the earth to retain water despite heat and strong sunlight is what makes it so much easier to keep plants alive in the ground as opposed to atop the ground in pots. That’s why potted plants often require daily watering whereas planted specimens wouldn’t be able to handle such frequent watering. When first establishing new plants, keep in mind that their root systems are rarely as large as they would be on a similarly sized in-ground plant. This means they will require more frequent watering while the root systems are spreading out – particularly when planted in late Spring and Summer heat. The Plant Guys always thoroughly “soak in” new plants when we install them – flooding the area to settle the disturbed soil, minimize transplant shock, and encourage plants to begin taking root. After the initial soaking in, most plants prefer to be watered about every 3rd day without rain. In extreme heat, you may have to water more frequently. Think of it as thoroughly soaking the entire root system, then allowing that system to almost become dry before thoroughly soaking the entire root system again. The dry periods prevent roots from rotting and prevent fungal issues. Overwatering doesn’t allow this drying process and will result in rotten roots. Over time, this will result in a tiny root system and eventually, death. It is best to water early in the morning. Watering before the sun is out in full force minimizes evaporation when using irrigation systems (this often becomes a concern during drought restrictions) and provides plants with moist soil before the heat of the day hits. Watering at night means you are often playing catch-up after the hot afternoon has already slowed down the growth of your plants. In addition, watering at night means that the sun will not be evaporating the water as quickly, which can result in fungal issues on leaves where water sits too consistently. In extreme heat, new plants may require additional attention in the afternoon. Most summer days are hottest from 1:00p.m. until around 5:00p.m., and a plant with a small new root system can crash pretty quickly if that root system is too dry during this time. But as always, you must be careful not to overwater by checking soil moisture below the surface before increasing the frequency of watering beyond normal. The Signals Whenever we inspect a struggling or dead plant to figure out what is wrong, we start by checking moisture conditions. If it hasn’t rained and the plant hasn’t been watered recently, but the soil is soggy, the leaves are blackening from the tips, or the root system is tiny or non-existent, the plant probably got overwatered. If the soil is dusty, if the root system is exposed to the sun and open air, or if the leaves and branches are shriveling up and turn brown, the plant is probably not getting enough water. A happy plant’s leaves will raise slightly towards the sun, attempting to capture as much of its energy as possible. This raising is most evident on large leaves such as those of the Maple and Hydrangea and is a sign of proper moisture levels. If the leaves look shriveled upwards, the plant is probably too dry. Often, this is your cue that you are running a little behind on watering. A thorough watering should result in those leaves filling back out and doing the healthy “raising” again if you catch it in time, but if you are too late they will continue to shrivel up, turn brown, and fall off. Learning to water your plants as soon as they begin to show signs of thirst, but not overcompensating, is key to watering. In extreme summer heat, many plants will wilt regardless of soil conditions. It is important to be able to distinguish the difference between this heat-wilting and a thirsty plant by checking soil moisture before soaking the root system again. If a plant is wilting from the heat but has moist soil, you may end up overwatering it. This is particularly true with Dogwoods, as they are temperamental understory trees that will react to heat but don’t like prolonged moisture. To check soil moisture, dig a couple inches down into the soil, as the top layer may be dry but the deeper soil (where most roots grow) may still be retaining moisture. If your plant seems to be suffering from the heat but the soil isn’t dry, a foliar spray from your hose (spraying the leaves but not the soil) may help cool it off for a little. Overwatering tends to result in blackening of portions of the plant. As parts of the root system rot away, the plant dies off in parts. Leaves may begin to wilt, but not quite in the same way as a dry wilt. The leaves don’t necessarily appear to be as dry when wilting, and often begin to curl at the edges. Leaf tips and branches may begin to look grey or black instead of the browner look of drying out. Distinguishing between damage from overwatering and under-watering can be very difficult in some situations and with some species of plants, but the soil conditions should be your best clue to which end of the spectrum your plant is at. Specific Tips o If your soil smells, it is probably too wet. Most stinky smells in the garden are the result of anaerobic decomposition, which typically occurs where water is retained for extended periods of time, preventing air from penetrating the pores within soil. o You can scratch the bark off of branches that appear to be struggling to see if they are still alive (even if they lost all their leaves!), looking for green and moist inner layers. If the branch can be snapped like a dry twig, it is unlikely to regrow and should be pruned back to the closest living node (the nub where branches meet other branches, stems, or trunks). o The “brain” and the “heart” of a plant is its root system, while the portion we see above ground is used for photosynthesis and sexual reproduction. The entire aboveground portion of a plant can sometimes die, but if the root system is still clinging to life, the plant may be possible to revive. This means that a plant’s root system is like the vital organs of the organism, requiring the focus of our attention. o Roots grow the most overnight, when temperatures are moderate, soil is the proper moisture level, and the plant isn’t struggling to survive an environmental threat. Roots will not grow quickly if your plant is struggling – instead, energy is conserved for simply surviving. If you want your plants to be full and healthy, it is important that they are given the appropriate moisture. o A garden that is consistently watered will produce far more fruits and vegetables than a garden that goes through a lot of dry periods (but don’t overwater!). This is a good concept to keep in mind while caring for plants that don’t give you as many physical signals as vegetables often do, as these fundamentals are the same for all plants. o Variegated varieties of plants always require less water than their non-variegated counterparts. o Large leaves = faster transpiration (release of moisture through leaves). Large leafed plants are often shade-loving, as they would have a harder time retaining moisture in full-sun. However, some plants such as the Magnolia Grandiflora have developed large leaves that do like full-sun. Be sure your plants are in the right sun conditions, as this will make caring for them much easier. o Sometimes shriveling leaves are the result of insect activity, not watering issues. If only some of your leaves are shriveled, check them to be sure Leaf Curlers or another insect hasn’t made itself at home. o Mulches are useful for retaining moisture and also help root systems stay slightly cooler in the heat and warmer in the cold. The Plant Guys include enough mulch to properly insulate the root systems of the plants we install with the purchase of installation, but we also offer mulching services for covering entire planting beds. o We recommend using organic, un-dyed mulches as opposed to pine needles. The barks used in these mulches do a better job of insulating plants. They also break down into rich soil over 1-2 years whereas pine needles provide little benefit to soil while attracting bugs and snakes. o Watering slowly reduces erosion, which could expose root systems. Break up the stream of water from a hose using sprinklers, nozzles, or your thumb to minimize soil erosion. Cover up any exposed roots with soil and mulch to reduce stress on the plant. o It can take a lot of time, a lot of experience, and sometimes a lot of dead plants before you master watering. It is a saying among bonsai artists that it takes 3 years to learn to water properly, and it is much the same with landscaping. o Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t by watching your plants over time will help you develop a sense for what your plants want until eventually, it becomes second nature to you. o If you have any questions or concerns about your yard, feel free to contact Nick of The Plant Guys via email at ThePlantGuysCharlotte@gmail.com (pictures are often very helpful!)
Offering professional landscape design and installation services, The Plant Guys are a Charlotte-based company with years of experience. Whether you have a little gap in your yard you want to fill, or want to completely redo your landscape, we're your guys! ___________________________________________________________ What sets us apart: Many landscapers will put the wrong plants in the wrong places and often use improper planting methods that leave homeowners with issues to deal with. We do not overplant areas! We know the conditions every type of flora prefers and are able to design landscapes that will look stunning year round for decades! When the right plants are put in the right places the right way, the results speak for themselves! We use organic products including organic fertilizer that will not burn your plants or harm your children and pets! ____________________________________________________________ Services offered include, but are not limited to: - Landscape Design (of any size! Experienced in both residential and commercial jobs!) - Landscape Installation - Plant/Soil/Mulch Delivery Services - Mulching Services - Demolition Services - Transplanting Services NOTE: We do not do landscape maintenance such as mowing, trimming, and edging. We do, however, have contacts we can recommend and refer you to. ____________________________________________________________ Mulching: Our mulches are organic bagged mulch! These products come free of weed seeds that bulk-mulch brings into your yard and fills your bed with unwanted weeds! Each kind of mulch available is of the absolute highest quality, creating a uniform, finished look in the yard while aiding water retention and soil condition. These high-quality mulches break down into nutritious soil over time (unlike pine needles!). Delivery and spreading available at additional cost. - 45lb Bagged Organic Soil Enhancer $5.40/bag (partially composted pine bark fines for a very clean look. Greatly improves soil as it breaks down.) - 3 Cubic Foot Bagged Organic Mulches - $5.40/bag - Hardwood Mulch - Pine Bark Large Nuggets - Pine Bark Mini Nuggets - Pine Bark Shredded Mulch ____________________________________________________________ If you have any questions or want a free estimate, please feel free to call Nick at: (704)-277-6624.