It seems like every time we tune into the weather report, we hear the same update, “Hot and sunny, with no rain likely…” Good news if you are heading to the beach and even better news if you dislike those pesky mosquitoes.
I want to caution everyone that it is so important to water, water, water new plants or newly installed lawns. A question that many of my customers ask is “how much to water and when.”
Know When to Water Your Plants and How Much
While plants can certainly die of thirst, we can also send them to an early grave by overwatering them. When we overwater, the soil becomes saturated, forcing out vital oxygen and literally drowning out plants. While it’s critical to provide ample water to new plants, you can reduce the amount of water you apply as soon as they become established. In fact, they should require supplemental water only in the absence of rainfall.
A few tips for watering:
- Focus on the root zone. Remember that it’s the roots that need access to water, not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease.
- Water only when needed. Water timers are a great invention, but you should not be automatically watering your lawn and garden, regardless of the weather. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little water.
- Water deeply and thoroughly. Lawns and annuals concentrate their roots in the top 6 inches of soil; for perennials, shrubs and trees, it’s the top 12 inches. In some cases, it may take hours to get moisture down to a depth of 6-12 inches.
- Water in the morning. If you do get moisture on the leaves, this gives them time to dry out. It’s much more difficult for plant diseases to get a foothold when the foliage is dry.
- Mulch everything. Mulch reduces surface runoff and slows evaporation from the soil surface.
- Use the right tool. When you use a sprinkler on your lawn or garden, only about 40% of the water actually reaches the root zone. Instead, try to apply water directly to the soil surface and apply it slowly so it soaks in, rather than runs off. You can do this most effectively with an open-ended hose at half-pressure, a watering can without the rose, or a soaker hose.
The goal of watering new grass seed
“All seeds require moisture and a certain temperature range before they begin to germinate. Once the germination process has begun, if conditions change, the seed or new sprout is vulnerable and can die.
If the seed or sprout dries out, it dies out. Your mission then, is to provide adequate moisture at all times. The pre-sprout phase is most critical. Your commitment to watering new grass seed must stay strong. The germination time for grass seed ranges from 5 to 30 days depending on the variety. It can be even longer than this in cooler temperatures.
This is how long it will take to actually see the grass growing. Until this point, the seed, or the soil and mulch in contact with the seed, must stay moist. It doesn’t need to be soggy or swimming, but moist.
Once the new grass is visible, the roots are also growing down into the soil. This happens quite quickly. As soil moisture below ground is more accessible to the roots, the plant is not so vulnerable now. However, don’t reduce the amount of watering on new grass seeds yet.
Seeds will not sprout all at the same time. Seeds will be buried at different depths, absorb water differently, or be of different quality or maturity. Many seed mixtures are blends that will have different characteristics affecting their development. It is important to keep the surface level of soil constantly moist until all seeds have germinated.
Until the planted area is densely showing green growth, don’t allow it to dry out. The percentage of seed germination is in your control, though people often blame a thin lawn on the “lousy seed that didn’t come up”! It is possible to increase the percentage of germinating seeds.” Article can be found here.