You have your plants in the ground, and hanging baskets or containers ready for a colorful spring and summer!  You want to keep them healthy, but you may not be sure of how much watering is needed. Did you know that the simplest test to determine if a plant needs water only requires your finger?  Put your finger about one-half inch deep in the soil surrounding your plants to test. If the soil is wet or moist at the root there is no need to water. If it’s dry, insert your finger deeper, and if it’s still dry, it’s time to water.  It is best to do this on a daily basis to ensure your plants get the water they need.

There are also devices available at most garden centers for this type of test. A moisture meter measures moisture at the root of the plant using a probe that is a bit longer than your finger. They are inexpensive and great for outdoor and indoor plants.

If you are going on vacation and cannot do the Finger Test, the following guidelines for watering new plants during the first year may be helpful in setting your irrigation clock while you are away:

  • Hot Months – 3 times per week
  • Warm Months – 2 to 3 times per week
  • Cool Months – 2 times per week
  • Cold Months – 1 time every few weeks if it is windy and does not rain

Once plants have been established for one year, the above watering guidelines can be reduced by about 50%.

If you discover the soil is dry, it is time to water. Gardeners recommend you water in the morning so that plants are not wet at night. Also, it is recommended that you give plants a good soak at the roots and not a shallow watering. Yes, it’s all about the roots. Diana Allstadt, a Scottsdale Farms garden professional, says that it takes 5 minutes to soak 1 inch of dry soil. Once you determine where the roots are in the ground, you will get a better idea of how long to give them a deep watering.  Also a good soak is needed when you install your new plants. Well, that sounds easy enough!