Answer: Most plants need an evenly moist soil, like a wrung out sponge -- not sopping wet or saturated and not dried out -- while they become established and rooted. This period typically means whenever the soil is not frozen over the first year, so for these you will be monitoring soil moisture next spring through fall as well.
There is no set schedule because watering needs will depend on the soil, the weather, and the planting location. For example, in hot dry weather or a windy site you might need to water more, in cool or rainy weather you would water less.
To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is damp, do not water yet. When you do water, apply it slowly and thoroughly to the entire root area so it soaks down to the deepest roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water actually went; sometimes this can be surprising. It is better to water deeply less often than lightly every day.
Using an organic mulch will help keep the soil more evenly moist, it also helps keep down weeds and feeds the soil slowly as it breaks down over time. Apply the mulch in a flat layer over the root area about three inches thick. Fluff and replenish as needed to maintain that depth year round.
You can continue planting container grown trees and shrubs until late fall and this is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Larger perennials could still be planted, however smaller plants may not have enough time to become fully rooted before the ground freezes. This can be a problem because they can be heaved out of the soil during those freeze/thaw cycles.
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