It’s summertime! Beach vacations, grilling, and newly erected baby (and adult) pools are in full effect. But, there’s one problem. Your tan is near perfect but rainfall is nonexistent. Your plants are dying of thirst and wilting under the summer rays. Is it time to forgo the comfort of your lounger, drop your dime store novel, and become a 24/7 plant waterer?
Thankfully, there are some simple watering tricks on how to beat the summer heat and keep the lushness alive. Your flower beds will continue to shine, and you can once again succumb to the life of leisure. So, grab a cold lemonade, lift up your sunglasses, and read about the zen of summertime watering.
Start with the Soil
A well-prepared soil bed not only provides nutrients, but it can also retain water even during the most arid of times. Clay is not your friend. It can hold water, but it can have the consistency of wet cement, thus clogging your plant’s roots. Plus, if it dries up, it can be harder than a brick. If you have clay, you can first break it up with green sand and then add a good compost (like mushroom or worm castings). You can also add compost to sandy soil since sand does not hold water at all. Compost will not only absorb water, but it also has tons of beneficial microbes and nutrients that will keep your plants happy and healthy.
Become a Mulching Maven
Mulch does many things for the garden. It keeps the soil moist longer. It can stifle weeds. It can even be aesthetically appealing if you’re using a decorative bark mulch. The best practice is to lay at least 3 inches of mulch in the beds and around each plant. If you’re really looking to keep weeds away, consider putting down cardboard or newspaper (4 sheets thick), and then adding a top layer of bark mulch.
Now for the Main Event…Watering!
Water strategy is key to healthy summer plants. If you plan ahead (like laying simple irrigation), you can essentially have all your flowers’ thirst quenched minus countless hours of watering each day.
It’s quite tempting to retrieve the hose daily and resort to shallow watering. Don’t. This method encourages roots to stay near the surface, which in turn makes your precious plants susceptible to drought. The best rule is to water deeply once or twice a week. Water at least an inch at a time. If all you have is a hose, make sure to water at the roots slowly. Don’t wet any of the leaves since that can lead to foliage burn in the summer. However, a hose is not ideal since it’s very tough to water effectively.
Soaker Hoses: You can lay soaker hoses along your rows and right up to your plants. Its slow release of water allows the plant to soak in all the moisture without getting a gush of water from an overhead sprinkler or hose. The even broadcast of water along the roots is the best way for your plants to stay hydrated. Since soaker hoses can be damaged in the sun (as well as not being that pleasing to the eye), cover it with mulch. However, soaker hoses can spring leaks, and they can be unwieldy if you’re using it over a long stretch of garden space.
Drip Irrigation: This is the most efficient way to water. Period. Emitters on the tubes can be placed directly on the base of the plant, and it will water only there. You get a perfect amount of water to each plant, while also saving on the water bill.
Finally, if you decide to go with either soaker hoses or drip irrigation, invest in a timer. Some of the better brands can even be set to go off daily at specific times. This leaves you free to hit the beach with friends without the worry of watering.