The key to healthy transplants lies in their root development, which starts shortly after they’re planted. Water, in the right amount, is key to their early survival, growth and development. Too much water and the plants will drown, and too little will harm the roots.
A water or moisture meter is indispensable for assessing the soil moisture around their root zones. The meters use terms like low, medium and high or numbers from 1 to 4 to indicate the amount of water in the soil.
The ideal range for new transplants is in the medium range, or 2.5 to 3 on a numbered meter. It’s important to moderate the amount of water on the roots because flooding the plants replaces the oxygen in the soil with water, and plants that grow in soil need oxygen near their root zones. Without oxygen, plants can’t complete the photosynthesis cycle.
The way that the water is applied helps or hinders the early growth development and water distribution. The best way to water is with a rain wand. The heads on these sprayers distribute water gently and evenly, much like a slow, gentle rain.
Watering with a hose or adjustable sprayer often creates a stream of water that’s too intense. Such a powerful stream or flood could disturb the soil around the plant’s root system, setting the plant’s growth back.
When using the wand, follow these guidelines for the best saturation around the root zones:
- Water one minute around the root zone with a rain wand for each foot of the plant’s height, up to a maximum of eight feet. Water your largest plants no more than 10 minutes.
- If the water runs off the area around the plant, move to another plant then come back. Sometimes packed or overly dry soils don’t absorb water quickly. They need more time to pull the moisture into the soil evenly. You can also slow the hose down to a trickle and deep water for an extended period of time.
- Once you’ve finished watering, insert the moisture meter into the area next to the root ball. The meter should register between 3 and 4 on a 1 to 4 scale. If it falls below 3, continue to water.
It takes time for the roots to establish themselves and start growing. During this period, you should check the plants daily. Wilted leaves indicate lack of soil moisture around the roots. Unless they get water soon, they will go into a phase called permanent wilting and die.
Use the water or moisture meter to maintain an ideal moisture level around each plant’s root zone by:
- Checking each plant in three locations around their roots.
- Checking every three or four days for the first four weeks, unless you’ve had heavy rain, or more often during hot, dry weather.
- Watering when the meter reads less than 2 on a scale of 1-4. Skip watering if the meter reads more than 2.