When temperatures climb and rains start to taper off, smart gardeners take a critical eye to their watering practices to conserve water and get the most out of their watering routine. Here are a few tips for water-wise gardening:
- Do not water during the hottest part of the day, on a sunny day or from above. Many plants have a natural system for conserving water during the heat of the day. Take a look at a natural prairie at high noon and then in the cool of the evening. You will see the plants are limp in the sun, but perk up when the day cools off. Your plants may look like they need watering, but they are actually just conserving moisture. Watering during the heat of the day, or even worse, from above, such as with a sprinkler, just leads to water evaporation.
- Water less often, but water deeply. With your watering wand, directing water to the base of the plants, water for what you think is a good drink. Now use your finger to test how deep the water has penetrated. Depending on the density and thickness of your mulch as well as the compaction of the soil, the water may have just reached the top half-inch or, worse, pooled and run off the surface. Deep watering takes time so be patient. It is better to deeply water once and encourage deep roots that will better access water during times of drought than to shallowly water often. Shallow watering ultimately weakens the plants, leaving them susceptible to drought.
- Mulch or plant thick. Exposed soil is more susceptible to drying out than mulched soil or a garden that is thickly planted. Do we want our hostas overlapping by a foot? Of course not. But plants can touch and we can incorporate understory planting to shade the soil and suppress weeds.