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Keeping Your Plants Healthy in Heat and Drought

Jun 27, 2012 | Gardens

In an effort to keep your plants healthy during heat and drought, we offer the following advice:


Watering Newly

planted trees and shrubs should be kept moist throughout the first year. A thorough soaking of each plant should be done three times a week for the first three weeks, twice a week for the next three weeks, and once a week for the balance of the year, even if it rains. When in a drought situation, this is the minimum these plants will need. It is very unusual to “over water” a plant, so when in doubt, WATER. Be mindful of current weather conditions and vary the watering accordingly. Wilting is often a sign of lack of water.


Watering in a Drought Situation

Watering is best done with an open-ended hose at a slow trickle or with the use of a soaker hose. Water should soak down around the deep roots of the plant. This takes a varying amount of time depending on the condition, slope, etc. of the soil around each plant. Ten to twenty minutes of a slow trickle may be necessary to attain deep watering. Check the soil down deep to be sure water is not just running off in another direction. Watering in the early morning and/or late afternoon (after 4:00 pm) is generally best.

Another faster and better way to water is to poke a hole in the soil next to the root ball of the plant. Root balls vary in size depending on the maturity of the plant. Average root balls being 12″ to 18″ in diameter. You should attempt to make the hole large enough and deep enough to insert a garden hose into the hole so there is no appreciable run off. Continue to use a slow trickle but this will allow you to water most plants in 5 minutes or less. You may have to use two or more holes for watering depending on the size of the plant.


The Reason for and Importance of Deep Watering

As plants begin to dry out the roots always seek moisture. If the plants are watered on the top two or three inches then the roots reach toward moisture at the surface. Then when the surface ground dries out, the roots become damaged and weak. If the plant is watered deeply at the bottom of the root ball and below, the roots go downward seeking the moisture and the plant root system becomes stronger. Note: Do not use any fertilizer at this time.

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About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

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