Last summer's drought brought Xeriscape back to the forefront of landscaping. Xeriscape is a landscape system that emphasizes landscape water conservation through seven principles, one of which is appropriate plant selection, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Appropriate plant selection means using native and adapted plants that consistently grow well in local landscapes and typically use less water once established. Two common misconceptions come from that statement.The first misconception is probably misreading or misunderstanding the phrase "use less water." Too often, people think that once a native or water-wise plant is watered for a couple of weeks, it is ready to live without irrigation. Even newly planted native plants and water-wise plants need help, especially in the first year or two after planting.
Few will dispute the belief that rain is the best source of water; however, don't depend solely on nature for irrigation. Although some plants may survive solely on natural rainfall in nature, most plants won't thrive to produce the lush landscapes we have come to expect around our homes. All plants need some supplemental water to remain at their healthiest, especially when there are several weeks between significant rain events.The key is remembering that water-wise plants use less water to remain healthy than many traditional plants used in cooler, more temperate climates. Using less water may mean that your water-wise plants may only need to be thoroughly watered once every 7-14 days instead of twice a week or more with some traditional landscape plants.
The second misunderstanding centers around plant establishment. It takes time for plants to develop root systems that give them the ability to draw water from a wider area. Many shrubs and perennials have a pretty good root system after a year or two, but trees take even longer.
Make sure you are keeping landscape plants that have been planted within the past two years thoroughly watered. A good soaking every week or two will help their roots continue to grow and expand instead of struggling to survive much less expand.
Trees need even longer to become established. If you planted a tree in the past three years, it will appreciate extra water, especially on hot, dry days like we saw earlier this week. Watering trees needs to go beyond the root ball. If you want your tree to grow faster, then promote root growth beyond the drip line. Fortunately, all that means is that you need a sprinkler that will water both the mulched area around the original tree root ball and the surrounding turf areas where roots are beginning to grow.
Mulch will help your plants during establishment and beyond. Mulch will help to keep the moisture in the soil area instead of evaporating from the soil surface. It also provides a protective shade layer that reduces soil temperature, making a more favorable environment for root growth.
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