Volume 16, Issue 40 - October 2 - October 8, 2008

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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Easy Does It

For new transplants, too much watering is as bad as too little

At a recent Deale Farmers’ Market, a customer and reader of Bay Weekly asked that I write a column on how to water newly planted plants. He had planted three small trees in his yard since spring; all three had died. The nursery replaced the trees but failed to tell him how to water other than not to let them dry out.

I asked how often he watered them.

“Every day,” he said, to make certain the soils would not dry out.

Roots need oxygen. If you keep the soil saturated with water, you exclude oxygen from the soil. Root growth of plants is actually stimulated by the soil’s wetting and drying. The important thing is not to let the soil become too dry. Since sandy soils do not retain water as well as loam, they need to be watered more often.

My recommendations for properly watering newly installed landscape plants is to water twice weekly if the soil is a sandy loam or a loamy sand; once weekly if the soil is a loam, whether silt loam or clay loam.

Apply enough water to penetrate to the roots. If you are using a lawn sprinkler, a tuna fish or cat food can makes an ideal rain gauge. Place it under the sprinkler. When the can is full, you have applied an inch of water.

If Mother Nature also provided water, it is helpful to have a rain gauge to see how much has fallen so that you can add additional water only if necessary. As new plants become established, the need for water decreases.

The best method of determining if a plant is established is to look at the foliage. If the new growth is producing normal-sized leaves, the plant is established and you have satisfied its water needs. However, if the new foliage is smaller than normal, continue with the present watering schedule until the new growth appears normal.

Upgrading Your Lawn

Q We have an established lawn but have some bare spots. Having read your May 29 article, “Grow a Lush, Bay-Friendly Lawn,” in Bay Weekly, I wanted to know if the nitrogen and dolomitic limestone can be put down at the same time? Should the yard be dethatched prior to this? Please let me know what should be done first: seed, nitrogen, limestone. Thanks so much; we truly enjoy your articles.

–Don Valente, Annapolis

A Apply the limestone first and allow it to be rained on or water it in well before applying the nitrogen, especially if the nitrogen is in the urea or ammonium nitrate form.

If you have a thatch problem, top-dress your lawn with compost such as LeafGro, Chesapeake Blue or Chesapeake Green to rot the thatch. Apply at the rate of two cubic yards per 1,000 square feet.

The bare spots are best treated using a steel rake to loosen the soil to a depth of two inches. Rake in a one-inch-thick layer of compost in that spot and seed. Cover seed with either cheese cloth or a light dusting of straw to provide about 30 percent shade to the soil and seed.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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