It’s hard to believe, but did you know that the Puget Sound area doesn’t even rank in the top ten rainiest areas in the country? With an extended dry season where we see less than an inch of rain in a month, a good portion of this little burg can get quite crispy in the summer. Some yards with large open areas designed to maximize lake views can really cook. Many of these spaces have not been designed to be super drought tolerant. Choosing drought tolerant plants, mulching, and thoughtful placement all help reduce water use, but regardless of drought tolerance, going into the dry season, watering may still be necessary.
Some of us have in-ground irrigation systems, which are expensive, but work autonomously. Drip systems can save a tremendous amount of water and are sometimes less expensive, but require more upkeep and oversight. The simplest (but least efficient) solution involves a glass of white wine, a lawn chair, and a garden hose. The following tips should apply to all of the above.
When to water plants
If possible, it is best to water in the early morning (though that may make the glass of wine feel wrong), as you will not lose too much water to evaporation and there is little chance of scorching leaves. Watering gardens and lawns with the direct sun shining through water droplets can burn leaves.
Watering in the evening is also an option, but leaving water on leaves overnight may increase the spread of diseases. However, folks with soaker hoses in garden beds can really reap rewards as the water seeps directly into the soil and does not splash on leaves, which can cause burning or spread disease.
How much to water plants
An average garden or lawn requires about 1 inch of water per week (combined rainfall and irrigation-you can use a rain gauge or an empty tuna can to measure). Watering deeply and infrequently will encourage roots to look deeper into the soil for their water and make for more drought tolerant plants.
One common mistake I see is frequent irrigation that runs lightly. If you are only getting the top layers of your mulch wet, the plants you want are not getting much water, but the germinating weeds are getting a great start. Pro tip: if you have a good layer of mulch, the goal is to dry out the top layer of mulch between watering; this will help discourage new weeds from germinating.
Of course the plants in your landscape will have much to say about watering. If you are keeping Gunnera they need plenty of water, while fans of succulents can make do with much less. In the world of irrigation we have high tech probes and sensors in an attempt to keep track of this, but walking out to the garden and putting your hand in the soil is really the best measure for the moisture content of the soil (and it’s so good for you too!). Also take a minute to look at the plants; if the soil is dry and they look droopy, crispy, or yellowed get them a drink ASAP!
Environmental Construction Inc. offers irrigation service as well as a full-service garden maintenance program. Contact us for more information.
Stay cool this summer, and try to keep those green thumbs from turning brown!