Wean plants based on age

Our new youngsters above eat often and a lot. As time passes, we taper how much and how frequently we feed them to a fraction of what it is now. That’s normal pet practice.

It may come as a surprise that this principle holds true for plants too. To render it explicit, diminish water gradually along a continuum of month 1, year 1, year 2, year 3+. While a particular new plant’s needs vary by type, season, soil, and exposure, a helpful rule of thumb for watering by maturity is:

  • First two weeks: Daily at first and then three or more times the next week.
  • Next several months: Two or three times weekly.
  • Year 2: Depending on soil and weather conditions, once or twice weekly.
  • Year 3+: Depending on plant type, once or twice monthly if that.

Weaning from water is designed for plant health and good for conservation too. I discovered its value by accident. After early 2014’s rationing, plants’ irrigation went from three times to twice weekly. Yet as time passed, 3-to 4-year-old ceonythus died and agaves rotted. Frequency has now evolved to every 5 to 7 days (depending on plant material and temperature) and newbies are appropriately hand watered.

Seattle’s Saving Water Partnership advises this smart watering for healthy roots and drought tolerance. Most resources focus on either fully established or brand new plants rather than in-between stages, which is a shame since gardens typically contain a spectrum. Even worse, they unwisely recommend several waterings each week, such as a key Southern California calculator that prescribes irrigation for low-water plants at 5-7 times weekly from April to September and 2-4 times weekly from October to March!

Customized tapered watering as plants age can be a challenge, but it’s worth it.

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