Transitioning Plants to Less Water
Making a new plant use less water begins with the planting
Transitioning plants into a less thirsty way of living.
You go to the Garden Center to buy some drought tolerant low water plants. Doing your part to save water. You take your new plants and plant them in the ground. Give them one splash of water and go on about your merry way. 2 weeks later your plant is all dried up and dead.
It’s all about the way you planted and the lack of understanding how a plant becomes drought tolerant.
It starts with the planting of any plant except perhaps succulents.
Here are the common sense rules for planting anything. Training it comes later.
Water the plants well. Dig your hole and amend the soil that will go back in. Be sure to dig your hole larger than the container size is. Amend that soil, not too much amendment. You want to make it easy for the roots to move out into the new soil but not so good that they want to stay there forever.
If you just dig a one gallon size hole sometimes the roots feel like they are hitting a cement wall and would just as soon not try. Now look at the roots of the plant that you are planting. If they are all going around in a tight circle you need to cut, tease, loosen those roots so that they break that round and round habit.
Fertilizer? If you are adding a dry fertilizer to your hole or your amended soil be very sure that the granules are well mixed into the soil. Diluted liquid feed it is good to wait a week.
Now you are ready to plant. Put your plant right in the center and then start to fill in the amended soil. Push it down hard on all sides. Keep; working on it. The other easy mistake that happens is air pockets. That is spaces between the root ball and your original soil. Roots that are exposed to air dry out and die.
Your gardeners are famous for this because they are often in a hurry. They toss the plant into the hole, throw a little soil over it and go home.
Don’t let that happen to you. When all the soil is packed in then water again.
That is the first step. Now you are going to begin the journey towards making your plant use less water. For the next month or so you need to be sure your plants are kept watered. After that you are going to make the periods between watering longer. When you do that the roots reach out further into the soil looking for water. Let your plants get just to the point of wilting. Not totally dried out but a little thirsty. If the plant that you bought is naturally a low water plant then you can begin to water twice a month or whatever your plant will tolerate. Plants that are low water will usually grow more slowly and need less fertilizer. All plants need attention. They need pruning and occasional fertilizer.
If your plants are California natives they do not naturally get rain in the summer and out in nature you won’t find any hoses or sprinklers. Some natives will tolerate summer water but be sure to do it sparingly.
Look up the plants you plant and see where they grow best in nature. There are wholesale plant growers like Tree of Life land Las Pilitas, Native Sons that give good on line advice. If the native plant grows in gravely decomposed granite then it will not be happy in heavy clay soil. If that plant is an Australian native it will not be happy with a fertilizer that has lots of phosphorus in it. That is the middle number on your fertilizer numbers. Australia does not have any phosphorus naturally in its soil so it makes sense that Australian natives don’t need this element.
Bottom Line. Know what kind of a plant you are buying. Plant the right plant in the right place. Do not expect a fuchsia to become a drought tolerant low water plant. If the plant you are buying needs good drainage don’t expect it to thrive in clay.
Plant the right plant in the right place and treat it like it grew in nature and usually it will thrive.
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