School is out and summer hot weather has arrived. with such extreme conditions in summer, what can you do to help your landscape survive and come out healthy in the fall? Here are 5 things to help your home garden through the summer:
1. Check your sprinkler system to make sure your programming is compliant and run a sprinkler test to make sure you don’t have any broken heads or lines. My sprinklers usually run around 3am and I am definitely not out there checking for geysers shooting up from a broken head. But this can be a common occurrence from lawn mower damage or just system aging. So choose a day, tell your kids to put on their swimsuits, and have an old-fashioned sprinkler run for the kids while you check to make sure the heads are all operating and facing the right direction.
2. Water deeply and infrequently. Why? Watering in this fashion encourages plants to develop deep, long roots which can access moisture away from the surface of the soil where it is less likely to have evaporated. You want to wet your garden or lawn to a depth of 6”. This usually means adding about 1” of water per week. How can you measure to see how long you should water to add 1”? Set out a few straight sided tuna-type cans in an area and turn on your sprinklers for 10 minutes. Measure the height of the water in the cans and take an average. Then divide 10 by your average reading. This will tell you how many minutes it will take you to get 1” of water out of your sprinklers.
3. Irrigate when the water is least likely to evaporate before soaking in. Get the most from your system by sticking to the cool early morning hours between 3am and 9am. Watering at night can promote disease because of the prolonged wet conditions.
4. Mulch any bare soil in your garden. Mulching helps reduce moisture evaporation from soil as well as reduces temperature fluctuation for plants. It also reduces the possibility for soil to develop that hard-packed top layer that seems to thwart attempts at getting any shovel into it. And ultimately, mulches decompose to add organic matter into your garden soil. So count that as a double incentive to add mulch to your garden. You can choose from a variety of mulches- hardwood mulch, pine straw, leaves or even sawdust (not from treated lumber, please!)
5. Install drip irrigation in appropriate areas. No, lawns will never be the best place for drip irrigation. But what about some garden beds where you can convert some of the sprinkler heads into drip or micro-sprinklers? These allow you to place water right where your plants need it and virtually eliminate water evaporation. There are lots of online guides on how to make this conversion.