3 Ways to Maximize Watering

There's no single answer to the question, "How much water do my plants need?"  By following these three simple guidelines, you can make sure your trees, shrubs and lawn are getting enough without the risk of overwatering.

1. Get to know your plants, and if you're planting new ones, go with natives.

Native plants are genetically adapted to our freakish climate and high altitude. Once established, they are far more likely to thrive on natural rainfall than plants that have been imported - even if they've been cultivated here for generations. Research your plants to find out what kind of natural habitat they would normally occupy. Plants that naturally grow in river valleys, like Birch and Willows, will require more water than those from the short-grass prairie or alpine environments, like Junipers and Buckbrush. If possible, group plants with similar water requirements together to avoid overwatering some and underwatering others.

2. Water at dawn.

Letting your sprinkler gush away on a hot and windy afternoon can mean that 50% of the water evaporates before it hits the ground. You pay for your water, and it takes energy to clean that water before it gets to your hose bib. Dawn is cool and almost always calm, cutting losses to evaporation to almost nothing. Dusk is also cool and calm, but plants aren't using water overnight. Fungus and bacteria will use water in the cool, dark hours, so watering in the evening or overnight tends to encourage disease and infections.

3. Water roots, not plants.

Leaves, stems and shoots give off water rather than absorbing it. Roots are the only plant parts that pull water into a plant. By watering leaves and stems, moisture is introduced, but doesn't go anywhere. This leaves water available for fungus, bacteria and insects that can become a world of trouble. Mulching beds helps in a few ways: it keeps the soil from overheating, supresses weeds, and helps prevent excessive evaporation, leaving more water available for plants.