05/16/2012 09:08 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Sprout Home Q&A Of The Week: Plant Care Timing

Q: I know my plants need water, but how do I know how much they need?

A: Each plant has different needs but, most importantly everything wants to have moist roots when all is said and done in order to really take a drink. For larger trees, that might mean root feeding. For balcony planters, soaking the entire container thoroughly until it drains out the bottom is needed. Knowing what plants you have is the first step to know how they grow. Find out what type of plant you have, research on whether they like to be kept evenly moist or if they like to have a break in between watering and let their soil go 'dry to the touch' -- or further. Once you have a watering relationship with your plant, stick to a schedule so that you do not stress your plant out. Also pay attention to seasonal watering needs. You will find that your plants will require more frequent watering with the warmer weather.

Flickr photo by Christopher Craig

Q: Should I be watering my lawn? I know it's probably not eco-friendly, but if I have one it might as well be green. How do I know how much water to give it?

A: Most lawns will want roughly an inch of water per week. How do you know how much is an inch? It can be as simple as placing coffee cans across your lawn before watering it. After about 15 minutes, take a ruler to measure the depth of the water inside the containers. You want your lawn to actually absorb that inch that you're giving it. So, if you have run off or puddling before you reach that mark, watering for shorter times several times a week might be the key.

Q: Does it matter what time of day I water my plants?

A: Most plants will appreciate an early morning or early evening watering. It's a great rule of thumb when you don't know every detail about every single item in your yard. Plants can burn their leaves in the heat of the afternoon sun with water droplets on them, so sticking to early or late watering times can help eliminate any worry or concern. If you have an irrigation system or soaker hoses, they can usually be used during the day without fear, but can come at larger overhead costs for your outdoor space.

Q: I am always confused about fertilization schedules. Should I be fertilizing my plants as I plant them? If I have to go back and do it later it's just extra work right?

A: Wrong! If you're planting things up for the first time or are using a potting soil, most bagged varieties will have some nutrients in them. You will actually be set for the first month (depending on the mix) without any extra add-ins. Some mixes high in organic content, such as bat guano and fish emulsion, can be stretched even further. The only exception to this is vegetables, where you can add in a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the early stages of the plant. It can encourage stronger plants and lots of leafing. Once they take hold, switch to something with less nitrogen to encourage blooming and hearty fruits and vegetables on your plants.