The trick to keeping your lawn, garden, or plants at their best throughout the summer is by watering regularly and correctly. While watering your plants may seem simple enough, there are some tricks that may help them grow even stronger.
Most plantings around the home, including lawns, flower beds, and vegetable gardens need from 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week during the growing season. A common misconception is that a lawn needs to be watered daily. If there is a good soaking rain during the week, you can probably avoid watering. If not, then you will need to provide water. The best practice is to water deeply and infrequently. You should avoid watering more than twice a week because frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow rooting. Your plants will be much stronger and better able to tolerate stress if they have a deeper, well-established root system.
You can determine the amount of water supplied by your irrigation system by placing a shallow container, such as a coffee can or glass jar, in the area being watered. Place a mark on the container one inch up from the bottom. A black permanent marker works great for this. Set the container out in the area to be watered and then watch the time to determine how long it takes for the water to reach the 1-inch mark you made. If you live on a slope, you will have to adjust the way you water because it will most likely run off before it has time to penetrate the soil. To avoid runoff, reduce the volume of water you are putting out so that it takes longer to fill the container to the 1-inch mark. You will also need to make adjustments if your soil is compacted. Water for a shorter time, wait a few minutes to allow the water to soak in, and then water again.
While water is essential for plant growth, it is possible to overwater. The roots of your plants need air as well as water and are not able to get enough air when flooded. We often see landscape plants die during the summer months due to overwatering rather than underwatering. Use the container method to determine how much water you are applying and don't apply more than 2 inches of water per week. There should never be standing water in a flower bed or garden.
The best time of day to water your plants is in the early morning. Watering in the morning conserves water by allowing it to soak into the ground without evaporating. Avoid watering at night because foliage that stays wet all night long often leads to diseases. Watering during the middle of the day also has its problems. Each water droplet that sits on a plant's leaves will act as a magnifying glass and burn the leaves of your plants in the sun. In addition, if overhead irrigation is used during the middle of the day, much of the water evaporates before it ever reaches the ground. So in summary, watering in the morning conserves water, allows greater penetration of water, and reduces disease problems.
Adding a layer of mulch in gardens and around trees and shrubs is a great way to reduce the amount of water required by plants. Mulch actually reduces evaporation from the soil and it also cools the soil. In addition to the items just listed, mulch can act as a barrier to weeds which compete with your garden plants for water and other nutrients. Many different organic materials can be used as mulch including tree bark, chipped wood, pine needles, grass clippings, or dried leaves.
Plants will flourish during the summer months if cared for properly. Watering correctly is one of the best ways to keep your plants looking great all season long.
For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Service Office at 501-623-6841.
There are several 4-H Clubs for Garland County youths who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities available, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension office, 501-623-6841, or email [email protected]
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They're open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information call Luke Duffle at 623-6841 or email him at [email protected]
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information about EHC, call Alison Crane at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected].