It’s the heat of the summer & your plants are looking a little…

…worse for wear. Chicago heat means business, so if you’re not conducting supplemental watering during the dry months it could mean stress or even death for your plants. If your landscape is more mature (Trees after three years, shrubs and perennials after one) chances are they won’t need much. But even a severe drought can put undue stress on plantings that have been in the ground for some time, especially if the heat wave hits during vacation when you can’t get to your garden.

When checking your plants for water stress, use this handy guide to spot the problem children. If they are indeed stressed, it might be time to water.

When to water? If your plants are showing signs of underwatering you’ll want to kick up your watering frequency. Stick your finger 2–3″ into the soil; if it feels dry then you’ll need to water more times a week. We recommend watering in the morning before 10am or in the evening after 6pm so less water is lost to evaporation. Water the drip-line or rootball, and not the foliage as this is how plants pick up water.

New Plantings When first establishing, an initial watering of at least an inch ensures a deep soak. If your new plantings are looking a little crispy, give’em a bit’ve love. Increase water frequency to every 4 to7 days. Be sure to test the soil every time before watering to make sure you’re not now over-loving your garden. Potting soil typically loses water faster than surrounding soil as well, so be sure you’re testing in multiple spots throughout your yard. It takes roughly 5–8 weeks for plant material to establish and expand beyond their tiny rootball. New shoots will be indicative of a happy, growing plant.

“Consider irrigation if you travel often and don’t like to water…”

Trees Deep watering trees ensures a deeper, more resilient rootball. Test the ground for soil moisture every few weeks on established trees. If they need help, buy a deep root adapter for your hose to streamline water down to the roots. Or as an alternative, a gator bag is also a great way of slowly funneling water where it needs to go.

Shrubs, Perennials, & Grasses Once these smaller plants reach maturity (one to three years after planting) the likelihood they will need additional water care is unlikely. However if you see tips of plants burning, test the soil. If it’s dry you’ll need to give your plants a little loving.

Sod Once established, a lawn will need at least an inch of water per week. You can spread watering out throughout a week period—1/3″ one day, 1/2″ another—so long as you come out with 1″ for the week. In periods of extreme heat test the soil between waterings and up the frequency as necessary.

Consider irrigation if you travel often and don’t like to water. Irrigation can be the difference between a good landscape and a lush, vibrant one, especially during the busy season when well-intentioned interventions can go by the wayside. Just be sure to set your irrigation to shut off when it is raining to ensure you’re wasting no more water than you need.

Kemora Landscapes is a full-service design, build, and maintenance company based in Chicago.