Sanders Says …
It’s hot enough to fry baloney on the sidewalk, and you’re worried about how the heat will affect your flowers, trees, shrubs and lawn. Here in the Southern Midwest, those weeks-long stretches between rainfalls can dry up even some drought-tolerant plants. Watering is essential during the summer growing season, and there are some easy ways we can be ‘water-wise’ as we nurture nature:
GENERAL WATERING TIPS FOR LAWN, PLANTS & SHRUBS
- Are water restrictions in place? Check with your city services to see if there are restrictions about water usage. Is a voluntary rationing plan in place? What days are you permitted to water your property?
- Don’t mow the lawn until it’s watered. Mowing dried, thirsty blades may exacerbate the dryness problem.
- Test for soil moisture. A screwdriver or wooden paint mixing stick inserted into the ground will tell you if the soil is moist or dry. (You can also purchase a moisture meter or gauge at the hardware store or local nursery.)
- Check the condition of the mulch. If mulch has compacted or formed a crust, it will prevent water from soaking into the root zone of a tree or plant. Break up the mulch with a rake.
- Select an efficient tool. A soaker hose or sprinkler wand can work wonders when watering and they perform more efficiently than the traditional garden hose and standard nozzle.
- Water wisely and when necessary:
• Don’t drown your plants or over-water your lawn. Water your lawn only when it needs water. If it crunches when you walk on it, it’s screaming for water! If its color is turning to shades of blue-gray, brown or yellow, it’s dying! If footprints don’t pop back up into healthy blades, it’s thirsty.
• Water grass at least weekly, unless you’ve had a good, soaking rain. Small water amounts lead to shallow root systems. To encourage deeper root systems, give less frequent but larger water amounts to plants and shrubs. Use a moisture gauge to determine the need.
• Different types of grass, plants and flowers require different amounts and frequencies of water. Too much water can prevent oxygen from reaching the roots, building ‘root rot’ and causing the plant to die. Over-watering kills many flowers and plants.
• Most lawns need one inch of water every week. That’s a deep watering to the roots, but only when needed.
• Windy weather, especially during hot temperatures, dries up the ground very quickly, which may necessitate an additional watering or two.
• Water that puddles around the base of the tree or plant, or runs in streams through the grass, is a signal to stop watering until the water has soaked into the ground, then resume watering until you feel you have watered at least one inch.
• It’s not necessary to water the leaves of trees and plants, or outside the root zone of a shrub or perennial. Plants, shrubs and trees should be watered to their drip line.
• Plants and shrubs planted in full sun along the foundation of your home may require more watering than others, as the sun’s rays are reflected off the building and the building may hold in the heat. Monitor the moisture of plants located under the home’s eaves, where raindrops may not reach.
• Do not allow newly planted shrubs and trees to dry out. Although flowers will usually bounce back to life when finally watered, newly planted shrubs and trees are unforgiving and may be destined for the wood pile if not sufficiently watered.
• Newly sodded lawns, lawns recently seeded and lawns with problem areas usually require more frequently watering than established grasses.
• Plants, trees and flowers located on hillsides and slopes require a special watering technique, to prevent the water from running down the slope before it sinks into the root base. Water for a few seconds slowly, then remove or turn off the water until the water you’ve just applied sinks down into the roots. Then give it a little more water and repeat this procedure until you feel you have sufficiently watered and the water has reached down to the roots. You may want to invest in a soaker hose or sprinkler system to make watering hillside plants easier.
- Choose the ideal time of day. Morning, when it’s cooler, is the best time to water. Watering in the early evening, at dusk or at night introduces a risk of fungus formation in the roots. Mold and mildew, flower blight and leaf spot are possible. Watering in the hot sun can sunburn the leaves. Water at the beginning of the day so the sun can dry the leaves and contribute to disease prevention.
- Use only cool water. A garden hose that has been coiled or stretched out in the hot sun all day will deliver very hot water to the lawn or plants. Store the hose in the shade. If that’s not possible, run the hot water out before you turn the hose to the plants. Test the water temperature with your hand.
- Waste no water. Turn off your sprinkler system if it rains. Prevent runoff when you water by hand or by sprinklers. Don’t flood the plants, just water them. Hire a lawn service to ‘aerate’ your lawn yearly, to increase the rate of water absorption and reduce runoff. If your state and city permit it, buy a rain barrel to capture gutter runoff and provide your own watering resource.
Some reasons plants, flowers and shrubs die:
- Too much water volume at each watering
- Watering too often
- Allowing plant or tree to get completely dry before watering
- Not giving enough water at each watering event
Gadgets that make watering a snap:
- Sprinkler system with rain sensor
- Moisture meter
- Soaker hose
- Garden hose with nozzle
- Irrigation system
- Misting system
- Rain gauge
- Rain barrel
Sanders Says … The customer service staff at Sanders Nursery and Distribution Center in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will be happy to help with your questions and can direct you to the gadgets and equipment necessary for keeping your lawn and plants beautiful.