When you have record breaking hot temperatures, and no rain, you need to provide your garden some extra TLC. Here are some irrigation and water saving tips to get your green things through the heat and drought.
1. Mulch! Use mulch everywhere in your garden, at least 2″ thick. It’s often on sale part way through the summer, so don’t skimp.
- A layer of newspaper underneath the mulch will give added protection, make the mulch last a bit longer. Water newspaper, then add mulch.
- Water first, then add mulch on top. Keep the mulch about an inch away from the stems and trunks.
- Keeps weeds from growing which rob your plants of water as well as nutrients. Plus you don’t have to work up more sweat pulling them out.
- Newly planted trees desperately need it, to keep soil cooler, and keep moisture in. The first 3 years are crucial for a tree’s survival.
- Mulch aids in watering, as it prevents runoff from the rain and the water from your hose. Mulch softens the impact of the water so it can actually sink into the soil, where the roots need it.
- On slopes, mulching to prevent runoff is even more important. Nothing worse than seeing all your watering draining off onto the sidewalk
2. Spot Water. You don’t have to water the entire garden.
- Treat each area as if they were growing in pots, and water only certain plants. For example: newly planted items, or thirsty plants, like hydrangeas.
- Grasses, sedums, and other drought tolerant plants can last without being irrigated.
3. Water deeply. Mulch helps here. Make sure you deliver at least a few buckets worth on any planted area. (shrubs, perennials, trees, vegetables) A light sprinkle isn’t enough to get down to the roots.
- Hand watering with a hose, by staggering your areas: train hose on one spot till water builds up on surface, then move the hose to another area, keep moving around your watering spots, moving back to your original areas till everything has had a several bucketful.
4. Break the surface tension of the soil, which prevents water from penetrating. Use a light showering hose nozzle to help with this, which gives more time for the soil to absorb the water. Once the surface tension is broken the rest of the water will absorb more easily, as water attracts itself. Mulch helps here too, as it slows the force of water, which helps to break the surface tension.
5. Stay away from orange mulches. No watering benefit here, this is purely a design decision. Orange mulches just look wrong in the landscape. Choose a natural pine or cedar, brown or black mulch.
6. Try Straw mulch on vegetable beds. Make sure it’s thick, 5 inches is good. Lay down newspaper before the straw mulch to prevent seeds from germinating in your garden.
7. Use green mulch. I grow rhubarb and when I harvest it, I always use my rhubarb leaves on my garden as a green mulch. Put the leaves top side down, the angle of the leaf and the veins will direct the water into the soil. Dandelion, clover, burdock, and comfrey leaves, (Just make sure there are no seeds or flowers attached), and grass clippings are all great green mulches. Even clippings from evergreen hedges make good green mulches.
8. Ideally, water early in the morning or in the evening. This minimizes water loss to evaporation. If your garden is dying of thirst, however, don’t hesitate to water at high noon. A thirsty plant is a thirsty plant. Direct the flow to the soil, not the leaves.
9. Save water: Don’t bother watering your lawn. In hot weather it goes dormant, not dead. It will green up again in cooler, wetter weather.
10. Get a rain barrel. These are really a must, and come in all kinds of shapes and volumes. Benefit to a rain barrel, besides saving water is that when you use the water, it will be warm, rather than freezing cold out of the tap. Tomatoes and basil plants appreciate this.