The rule of thumb for watering newly installed plants is one inch of water every week for the first six weeks. This includes evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, ground cover and lawns. A thorough watering once a week is usually sufficient.
In late fall and winter, deciduous plants go dormant, reducing their water needs. Evergreens will still require supplemental watering during late fall and winter in order to prevent “winter burn” or drying-out of leaf surfaces. Do not rely on nature to provide water because if plants are in a protected area (sheltered under large trees or near overhangs of buildings), they may receive little or no water from rainfall. Plants in low areas may be getting plenty of water since excess water may collect there.
- Over watering is as harmful as under watering since soggy conditions often cause root rot. Just because a plant’s leaves are drooping, does not necessarily mean the plant needs more water.
- Planting areas located on slopes and earthen mounds, under large trees, and in sunny exposures tend to become dry more quickly than planting areas in the shade, or on low ground. Therefore, check for proper soil moisture in all the areas that have received new plantings.
- Small plants (groundcover and perennials) typically need more frequent watering since they have a small root ball that can’t hold as much water, and they are located in the dryer top few inches of soil.
HOW TO DETERMINE IF YOUR PLANTS NEED WATER
To check for proper soil moisture, dig into the soil next to a plant’s root ball, being careful not to disturb the roots of the plant. Scoop out a handful of soil at the proper depth (1-2” deep for lawns/groundcovers, 5-10” deep for shrubs/trees), and squeeze the soil in your hand. If you can squeeze out water, the soil is too wet for all but bog plants. If the soil sticks together in a ball and is just slightly moist, the moisture level is ideal and watering is not needed yet. If the soil is dry and will not hold together in a ball, provide the plant with a thorough watering that will moisten the soil all the way down to the base of its root ball and penetrate the surrounding soil.
Watering Maturing Plants
After nine months, supplemental watering probably will only be required during prolonged dry periods (12 days or more). After about a year and a half, plants roots reach into the surrounding soil to find water on their own (though during periods of drought, extra water from you will be appreciated).
Water every day for the first two weeks during hot weather. Watering should be 2-3” deep to encourage root growth down into the soil rather than along the surface. Watch for dry areas where the sprinkler does not reach and hand water if needed. After two weeks, provide one inch of water per week or as needed. Signs of under watering are foot printing and wilted, folded or curled leaves.
Water lightly ever day or as needed for the first two weeks to keep the top inch of soil moist and allow proper germination. As the seedlings grow, water less frequently but more deeply to encourage roots to grow downward. If your lawn is fescue seed that was sown in winter, the seeds will remain dormant until spring; so, watering should begin when the weather warms.
- Plants will benefit from an annual fertilizing each spring. If your plants were installed in spring, do not fertilize until next spring.
- Plants that bloom in the spring, such as azaleas, cherry, etc., should be fertilized after blooming.
- A liquid fertilizer or slow release granular fertilizer can be used. Consult your local garden center for the best fertilizer for your plants.
Fescue lawns in the Piedmont of North Carolina benefit from the following program:
- Using a broadcast spreader, fertilize grass with (12-4-8) granular fertilizer in February at a rate of 1 lb. Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This translates to 8 lbs. (12-4-8) / 1,000 sq. ft.
- In September apply (14-26-6) granular fertilizer at a rate of 1 lb. Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet – or 7 lbs. (14-26-6) / 1,000 sq. ft.
- In November apply (10-10-10) granular fertilizer at a rate of ½ lb. Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet – or 5 lbs. (10-10-10) / 1,000 sq. ft.
- If the available fertilizers differ from above, use the following formula. desired lb. N / 1,000 sq.ft. = application rate / 1,000 sq. ft % N in fertilizer
Note that the best way to determine your lawn/s nutrient needs is by testing the soil. This service is provided through your local state’s agriculture service.
Tree stakes should be removed after one year. Tree wrap, if any, should be removed in the spring after cold weather subsides. If your lawn has been seeded, do not remove the wheat straw after the grass has begun to grow. The straw protects the young seedlings, and will decompose on its own.
The first mowing should begin once the grass has reached a height of five inches. Sod should be well rooted into the soil by then and seedlings should be anchored in place by deep roots. Fescue lawns should be maintained at a three inch height, removing no more than 1/3 blade height at each mowing. If a fescue lawn is cut shorter than three inches, the grass will not be able to produce enough food to flourish and weeds will start to grow. If growth regularly exceeds four inches, pest and disease problems may occur.*** The preceding recommendations are provided to aid you in plant maintenance. Though everyone has their own methods for plant care, we feel these suggestions will best suit the majority of our plantings. For further information on specific plants, contact your local Agricultural Extension Service, which often has free information on caring for landscape plants.