While underwatering a hedge is a common concern, many people overlook the equally serious risks of overwatering. You can easily water your hedge too much when trying to make sure it stays healthy during the growing season, so keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs.
If you notice that the soil remains waterlogged around the base of your hedge or the leaves start turning yellow, then it’s likely you’ve been watering it too much. Cut back on your regime immediately and your hedge should soon start to recover.
In this post, I’m going to explore why you might end up overwatering a hedge even when you’re trying not to, the potential consequences, signs to watch out for, and best practices to ensure optimal watering. So let’s get going!
How Much Water Do Hedges Need?
To answer the question of whether you can overwater a hedge, it’s important to grasp how much watering hedges need in the first place.
Just like any other plant, hedging plants require water to grow and thrive. The amount of water they need will depend on many factors such as the type of hedge, soil conditions, climate, and the time of year.
Also, note that new hedges typically need more frequent watering to establish their root systems in the first couple of growing seasons. Mature hedges on the other hand are more efficient at absorbing water and will need far less attention than newer plantings.
To give you an idea, new hedges will typically require around 2.5 gallons of water per plant once or twice per week if it’s dry whereas mature hedges will only need watering once a week during a hot summer at most.
For the rest of this article, I’m going to focus on how to avoid overwatering an established hedge as this is where most of us will likely go wrong!
Signs of Overwatering
To avoid overwatering your hedge, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate there is too much water in the soil around it, whether that’s from your own efforts or the weather.
Keep an eye out for the following:
If you notice water pooling around the base of your hedge, resulting in muddy or waterlogged soil, it’s a clear sign of overwatering. Another reason could be that the water is not draining away properly which will have the same effect.
Overwatered hedges often have yellow or wilted leaves, even when the soil isn’t wet. This happens because the roots lack oxygen as they are effectively drowning.
Unseasonal Dropped Leaves
Another sign to look out for is when the leaves start dropping off your hedge during the growing season.
The growth of molds, mildews, and other fungal infections on the leaves and stems of your hedge is another indication that you’re watering it too much.
Excessive watering can hinder the growth of your hedge, resulting in limited shoot development and sparse foliage.
Factors That Contribute To Overwatering
Besides the obvious cause of just watering too much and too often, there are several other factors that can increase the risk of overwatering. These include:
Bad Soil Drainage
Soils that don’t drain well, like heavy clay, retain water for longer periods, increasing the chances of overdoing it. Make sure to reduce how often you irrigate if you have this type of soil.
How you actually water your hedge matters as much as how much you use. Frequent shallow watering doesn’t penetrate the soil so never reaches the roots and pools on the surface. Instead, focus on watering deeply and less frequently.
Rainy periods or excessive rainfall will mean you need to adjust your watering schedule or stop it altogether to avoid overwatering.
During the colder seasons when your hedge will usually be dormant, there is no need to water it. As soon as it starts to grow in the Spring then begin watering, especially if it’s very dry, and continue through to Fall.
Best Practices for Watering Your Hedge
The best way to avoid both overwatering and underwatering is to follow some best practices for hedge irrigation. Here are some guidelines for a good place to start:
Establish a Watering Schedule
It really pays to create a watering schedule based on your hedge’s specific needs, considering factors like the type of hedge, soil type, and climate. Doing it this way means you know exactly what your hedge needs throughout the year.
Check Soil Moisture
Regularly check the moisture level of the soil by sticking your finger in so that it goes down several inches into the ground, or use a moisture meter. Water only when the top layer of soil is dry.
Don’t Just Spray Water On The Leaves
It’s often tempting to just spray your hedge with water and think that is all you need to do, but this doesn’t deliver hydration where it’s really needed – at the roots.
Water Deeply And Infrequently
Instead of watering a little bit every day, focus on watering deeply once a week. This encourages the growth of deep roots and reduces the risk of overwatering. Give the ground a good soaking by leaving your hose running at a trickle, and moving it along the hedge run as needed.
Use A Soaker Hose
For better results consider using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, which deliver water directly to the soil around the base of the hedge without you having to move it along. This minimizes evaporation and reduces the likelihood of overwatering.
Mulch the Soil
Organic mulch, such as wood chips or bark, is a great way to reduce the need for frequent watering. Just place a layer around the base of your hedge to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
Improve Soil Drainage
If your hedge is planted in poorly draining soil such as heavy clay, try improving it by incorporating organic matter like compost where you can. This helps prevent waterlogged conditions and greatly reduces the risk of overwatering.
Understanding the potential risks of watering too much is crucial in maintaining a healthy and vibrant hedge year after year. Overwatering can drown the roots, promote fungal diseases, and even wash away essential nutrients from the soil.
But by recognizing the signs of overwatering and following the simple tips above, you can strike the right balance and ensure your hedge is getting just the amount of water it needs.