Water is a precious resource, a fact made very apparent during a drought. Here are six tips to help your lawn and garden get through a drought, without wasting water.
1. Use Mulch
If you haven’t already added 2-3 inches of mulch to your gardens, now is the time. Mulch prevents weeds, reduces soil moisture loss, and keeps soil, and roots, cool. Roots can stop working if the soil gets too warm, making it even harder for the plants to handle the drought. Mulch is a must have for every garden!
2. Let Your Lawns Sleep
Healthy lawns can go up to 6 weeks without water. If your lawn has gone into dormancy (turned yellow), spraying it with cold water on a hot day will shock the grass and force it out of dormancy unnaturally. At the beginning of the season, choose to water your lawn on regular basis (once per week) all season, or let the rain do the watering for you, leaving it to go dormant during a drought. Make sure that you have a healthy lawn to begin with (for tips on creating a healthy lawn visit: http://frankieflowers.com/9-steps-perfectly-green-lawn/), keep foot traffic to a minimum when it’s dormant, and monitor for weeds and pests such as chinch bugs. If it has been 6 weeks without ANY rain fall, and there are no watering restrictions for your area, then you can add ½ inch of water per week to maintain the dormant grass. Make sure to do this in the early morning, not midday.
3. Mow Your Lawns Higher
Leaving a longer grass blade during the hot weather will help shade the roots and soil, so your lawn is better protected during a drought. Mowing at a height of 3-4 inches will help your grass stay greener, longer in a drought without needing extra water or rain, and helps outcompete weeds.
4. Water Properly
Plants need water, but spraying the leaves during hot weather, especially at night, begs for disease such as powdery mildew, rust and rot. Wet soggy soils can drown your plants, which is more stress than too little water! Water deeply and infrequently, typically one inch per week, which includes any rainfall. Direct water the roots of the plant, not the leaves, and only water when the top 1.5-2 inches of soil is dry. Stick to morning watering and check with your local municipality for permitted watering days and times. For more tips on proper watering, visit http://frankieflowers.com/how-to-water-your-garden-correctly/
*Remember that plants often droop their leaves midday to adapt to the heat. Don’t panic and grab the hose! They should perk up again in the evening when the weather cools off. If the plant is still drooping in the evening or first thing in the morning, and the soil is dry, it is time to add more water.
5. Succession Plan for Cool Season Crops
Say goodbye to your spring cool season crops like lettuce and kale and start planning for fall. Cool season crops prefer…you guessed it…cooler seasons. When the heat hits, it stresses them which causes bolting. Bolting is when crops start to flower and go to seed prematurely. This makes them taste bitter and they are no longer worth eating. You can start some cool season seeds, as soon as the drought has passed, so they are ready for a fall harvest.
6. Give Trees a Drink
Young trees can suffer during a drought, especially in urban areas. Pouring a bucket of water, once a week, around the base of young trees and nearby street trees, will help them get through the drought. Years from now they will pay you back with cool shade to help you through a drought.