Scorching summer heat waves are setting record high temperatures throughout much of the country and will continue in many regions for the rest of the season. Despite the weather, you can help your lawn and garden thrive in the same way you help your own body manage the heat–by keeping them both hydrated.
If you have a functioning sprinkler system, watering your lawn and garden may seem a straightforward affair. Although water restrictions in many areas present more of a challenge, there are strategies for keeping your vegetables, flowerbeds, and lawn healthy and happy in hot temps without driving up your bill or wasting precious H2O.
Challenges of Container GardeningFor small spaces, container gardening is a great way to grow some fresh vegetables or add punches of color to an entryway, patio, or apartment balcony. But plants in containers need extra care in order to survive in extremely hot weather. The soil in containers dries out much faster than in the ground, and container plants can’t stretch their roots down in search of moisture deep below the surface.
Container gardens need to be carefully monitored and watered more often than plants in the ground––as often as daily in very high temps. Potted plants will do better outdoors if planted in larger containers with a moisture-retaining potting mix.
Plan For the Lawn Haul…Grass lawns remain the most popular choice for most homeowners, if only because most homes already have them. If you live in a desert climate, however, you may want to consider replacing your water-hungry lawn by xeroscaping, water-wise landscaping that relies on drought-resistant plants native to your local ecosystem.
Even if you don’t live in an arid climate, transitioning away from a lawn can make it easier to keep the garden green with less water. One popular grass alternative is white clover, which doesn’t grow as tall as grass so it requires less mowing.
Use a Water Timer or Drip Irrigation to Maintain HumidityA sprinkler system is the simplist way to keep your lawn and garden adequately watered, and a water timer is the easiest way to ensure that your lawn and garden are watered regularly. Drip irrigation systems are also useful for keeping vegetable and flowerbeds irrigated, and you can also be set them up using a water timer. If you don’t have a sprinkler or drip irrigation system, or yours isn’t functioning properly, you can look for local handyman services to get your lawn and garden squared away.
Water DeeplyHaving a sprinkler or drip irrigation system beats standing around outside with a hose, because you’ll still need to water your lawn and garden at least two or three times a week. To encourage roots to grow deep and away from the soil’s hot surface, make sure to water for at least a full hour in order to soak your garden soil to a depth of at least six inches.
Water Early in the MorningThe best time to water your lawn and garden is in the early morning, especially if you’re using a sprinkler system. Avoid watering in the evening or at night because plants leaves that remain wet overnight can become diseased. Watering early in the morning, when leaves are already wet with dew, minimizes this risk because the leaves have a chance to dry before the sun becomes blazing hot.
Morning watering also offers an opportunity to inspect vegetable and flowerbeds for wilting plants. Most gardens have an “indicator” plant that begins to wilt before the other plants are looking parched. In a vegetable patch, these are usually plants with large leaves, such as cucumbers and squash. When these plants are wilting early in the morning, it’s a sign they need water; but if they’re perky in the morning and wilting during the hottest part of the day, it usually just means they are reacting to the heat.
Be Water-WiseMunicipalities in some areas publish information to help residents determine, based on up-to-date weather conditions, exactly how many inches of water their lawns and gardens need in a given week. For example, in the Portland, Oregon area, the Regional Water Providers Consortium publishes a weekly watering number to help gardeners calculate how much water they’ll need for various elements in the garden such as lawns, shrubs, trees, and vegetables.
Estimate how much rain your lawn and garden have received over the previous week and adjust your watering accordingly. Consider using a rain barrel and reusing grey water from your sink to keep thirsty plants hydrated without driving up your water bills.
Keeping your garden lush and green during the dog days of summer takes water. Irrigate smartly to encourage the growth of strong plants with deep roots, and remember – with a little effort, most established lawns will bounce back well from even the highest temperatures.
Photos by Robin Plaskoff Horton.