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  • Writer's pictureKassi K.

Summer Watering Tips: Watering Advice from the Pros

Ensuring your property stays adequately watered during the summer is a challenge familiar to many. While we've all faced difficulties in keeping our plants hydrated, few of us consider the potential negative effects of poor watering habits. Can you overwater your plants in the summer? Does the time of day you water make a difference? Are you noticing unusual burn spots on your plants? Why do your plants often look wilted mid-day? These are all things to be aware of and adjust accordingly to if you want to maintain the health and beauty of your plants throughout the season.

watering can spreading water in the summer months

Be Careful Not to Overwater Your Plants

While it may seem unlikely, it is indeed possible to overwater your plants during the summer. While some plants, like annual flower baskets, may need daily or even twice-daily watering, this amount can overwhelm and stress other trees, shrubs, or perennial plants. The heat of the sun already stresses plants, and an excess of water can harm their root systems.

Have you ever noticed your plants looking wilted during the heat of the day? During extreme temperatures, this is the plants' way of conserving energy and is not necessarily a sign that your plants need more water. Providing more water to your plants at this time can potentially put more stress on the plant if it is already sitting in soil that is moist. Wait until the next morning, and if they have not yet bounced back, then water them more.

Ideally, you want the soil around your plants to be moist (but never soggy). Whether your plants are in the ground or containers, testing the soil's moisture is an easy way to determine if your plants need more or less water. There are various soil moisture meters available for purchase that make this process easy. Another method for testing soil moisture is by simply sticking your finger into the soil. If the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry, it's time to water. If the soil feels moist or sticks to your finger, wait a couple of days before watering. This method works well for many plants, including porch pots, flower baskets, and indoor houseplants. For gardens, landscaping, or flowerbeds, use a shovel to dig a few inches down near the base of the plant and check the soil with your hand. If it feels moist, wait another day or two before watering.

Fertilize Your Plants as Needed

Properly fertilizing your plants during the growing season actually goes hand-in-hand with watering throughout the summer months. The increased water demands of plants during the hot summer months can deplete the soil of essential nutrients. For flowerpots and hanging baskets, watering once or twice daily can wash away many nutrients. Similarly, garden fruits and vegetables consume so many nutrients that the soil often can't sustain healthy plant growth throughout the season without a little help. This makes regular fertilization crucial. Whether you're tending to annual flowers, perennial plants, garden vegetables, or trees and shrubs, using plant-specific fertilizers several times during the season is key to maintaining plant health. Avoid generic all-purpose fertilizers from big box stores, as they may not meet the specific needs of your plants. For example, annual flowers often need a high-phosphorus fertilizer to encourage blooming, while tomatoes require a calcium-rich fertilizer. Research the best fertilizers for your plants to ensure they have the nutrients necessary for healthy, strong growth all season long.

Be Careful Not to Underwater Your Plants

It is also not recommended to allow the soil to dry out completely, even if you have plants that are considered drought-tolerant. Plants that are left in bone-dry soil for extended periods of time will experience root damage and then will not be capable of soaking up moisture when it does become available. If you have any newly planted trees, shrubs, or perennial plants, they will need consistent watering 2-3 times per week until they have established strong root systems, which can take 1-2 years, even if plants are listed as xeric or drought tolerant. Drought tolerance requires deep root systems that can pull water from deep below the soil's surface. Therefore, plants that have just been planted and do not yet have these extensive root systems, plants that have been improperly watered to encourage shallow roots, or plants grown in containers will lack drought-tolerant capabilities.

a man watering his lawn and garden in the summer

Be Sure to Water Your Plants Properly

There is definitely a right way to water your plants and a wrong way to water your plants, and watering improperly can significantly impact the health and longevity of your plants. Consistent, deep watering is more beneficial than frequent, light watering. What we mean by this is that plants benefit more from a slow, deep watering a few times a week than they benefit from a quick splash every day. This is because a slow trickle for a couple of hours allows water to soak deeply into the soil, which in turn encourages the roots to grow deep in search of this water. In contrast, turning your hose on full blast for several minutes may deliver the same amount of water, but it will spread out across the surface and soak just a few inches deep, which will encourage the roots to grow wide and shallow. This compromises the stability of the plant as well as its drought tolerance. For established plants, this watering technique is similarly important, as wide and shallow watering will not allow the moisture to soak deep into the ground where the established roots can access it. This approach is particularly important for larger plants, such as trees and shrubs, which have deeper root systems and require more water to thrive.

Water At the Right Time of Day

Watering at the appropriate time of day is crucial. Did you know you can lose 25%-50% of the water you use if you water during the heat of the day? When watering your garden with overhead sprinklers, much of the water can evaporate or be carried away by the wind. Even with a drip irrigation system, a significant amount of water can evaporate from the soil before your plants have the chance to absorb it. This also applies to potted plants. Watering at the wrong time of day means your plants are not actually getting the water you think they are and is also wasteful from a water conservation perspective. Therefore, watering during the coolest parts of the day is ideal. Set your sprinkler schedule for the early morning, and water your porch pots and flower containers at the beginning of the day. Hint: watering in the morning vs. watering at night also ensures that moist conditions will dry out, reducing the likelihood of fungal issues developing in your landscapes and garden beds. A water timer from your local Garden Center can help take the work out of this routine and will help to ensure that your plants have time to absorb the moisture they need before the heat of the sun takes the rest.

Water At the Base of Your Plants

a leaf with water droplets after being watered

How you water your plants is just as important as when and how much you water them. Always water your plants at the base, avoiding a full shower over the entire plant. Wetting the foliage can have several adverse effects. Water droplets on leaves can act like magnifying glasses, causing burn spots when the hot sun shines on the plant for several hours. For more sensitive plants, this damage can be severe enough that they may not recover.

Overhead watering can also lead to airborne fungal diseases. Plants are much more susceptible to issues like powdery mildew when their leaves are damp, as wind-blown spores are more likely to stick to wet foliage. The damp surface provides ideal conditions for fungal diseases to grow and spread. By keeping your plants' leaves dry, you make it much more difficult for these diseases to take hold. Even if the spores do land on the plant, the less favorable growing conditions will hinder their growth and spread.

So, if you're using a hose to water your plants, make sure to place the nozzle at the base of the plant to avoid wetting the leaves as much as possible. For garden watering, consider installing a drip irrigation system instead of using an overhead sprinkler or showering your plants with a hose. This will help keep your plants' foliage dry and will also improve water efficiency, as less water will be lost to evaporation or wind.

Summer Water Advice from the Professionals

If you would like more information on how to water specific plants, seek help diagnosing an issue, or any other plant-related questions, you can visit our on-site Nursery & Garden Center any day of the week! If you are interested in professional landscaping services in Fort Collins, reach out to our team of experts. No matter what your needs, we are here to help!


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