To Water or Not to Water?

Written by Greenwise Team
Published on July 12, 2018

To water or not to water

We pride ourselves on creating sustainable lawns and gardens, so how much to water is a tricky question. Water is a valuable resource and we need to use it wisely. To water or not to water? Plant care cannot be quantified to a specific formula. It requires some observation and judgement depending on the plant, soil, weather, exposure, and time of year. First, check the soil. When the soil is still moist, plants are ok. When the soil feels dry, it is time to water again. And always remember to water at the base of the plant–not on the leaves! Below are some additional guidelines to help you care for your plants.

General tips
Watering in the morning is best, so that the plants can absorb the water before the heat gets to them. The risk of watering at night is that the damp leaves might encourage fungus problems. Avoid watering in the middle of the day.
Method and Duration. Newly installed landscaping is most easily watered using a sprinkler or soaker hoses. Your sprinkler may need to be moved around to cover the entire planted area. Leave the sprinkler on for about 30 minutes in each area so that the ground is thoroughly moist. Soaker hoses all “weep” at different rates, so you will need to monitor these the first few days to get a sense of how long it takes to adequately water the plants.
• Remember that it’s also possible to overwater your plants! Watering daily is only recommended for small containers, not in-ground plantings.

• Newly installed seed kept moist for the first two weeks and foot and pet traffic should be avoided. If installed during cool weather, water with a sprinkler once in the morning. If installed during warm weather (75 degrees or above), water twice daily: once in the morning and once in the early evening. For the remainder of the season, reduce the frequency to 2-3 times per week to encourage deeper root growth.

• Sod needs more water than you’d think! Water at least once every morning for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sod should be kept continually moist for the first 2-3 weeks until its well-established. When you walk on your lawn, it should not be squishy – that indicates over-watering. It should not be firm but have a little give.

Established Lawns
• Watering a lawn is site specific. The right answer depends on your turf type, soil quality and what’s growing in or next to the lawn. All of these factors impact water retention. Watering deeply and infrequently during the heat of the summer will help encourage healthy, deep root structure. Be sure to water early in the day so your turf has time to dry out before nightfall. Wet turf overnight breeds fungal issues, and you don’t want that! Generally, we suggest 30 minutes of watering 2-3 times a week. But, 30 minutes with an irrigation system will likely give a lawn a much better soaking than 30 minutes with an oscillating sprinkler. Setting a measuring unit like a tuna can on the turf is one way to find out how much you’re watering. Another rule of thumb is if you can’t push a 6” screwdriver into your lawn, you aren’t watering enough.

Perennials and Shrubs
• Perennials and shrubs should be watered 2-3 times per week for the first season. Perennials and groundcovers, with their smaller root systems, may require watering every day or every other day, depending on weather conditions until they start to establish. Give the soil time to dry out between waterings but keep watch for plants that look wilted. Wilting, most common during hot summer weather, means the plants need additional watering. New hydrangeas are especially prone to wilting, but almost always bounce back after a good watering.

• Trees require additional watering beyond regular sprinkler watering. Remove the sprinkler and place the end of the hose on a slow trickle a few inches from the trunk of each newly planted tree. Leave hose on this setting for 30-45 minutes for each tree for 1-2 times per week until the there is a heavy frost and the tree enters dormancy for the winter.

Established Plants
• After the first season, plants should be watered one time per week during cool weather and 2 times per week during dry and/or warm weather (75 degrees or above). After the third year, the plants should sustain themselves with normal rainfall. During times of drought or extreme heat, even established plants will need and benefit from supplemental watering.

Container Plants
• Additional Watering for Containers. Plants in containers tend to dry out more quickly than in-ground plants. For small containers, daily watering is recommended. For containers larger than 30”, follow the above watering care instructions.

Questions? Call Greenwise at 847-866-1930 or email us at We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have on watering or sustainability.