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Plan To Water Your Valuable Plants This Summer

Meteorologists aren’t saying yet that we’ll see a drought in the Rochester and Finger Lakes area this summer, but they have pointed out frequently that June was a very dry month. If you really love your landscape and want to protect it, I suggest that you develop a watering plan now, before you need it.

A watering plan doesn’t have to be a formal document. However, you and your family should agree which plants get watered first, second, etc., otherwise the cost to provide the necessary inch of water per week to all plants in your landscape could be prohibitive.

Plants’ value and their ability to find water or otherwise survive should be the determining factors. Your trees and lawn are, arguably, your most valuable plants. But mature trees and even some shrubs are able find sufficient water. If they can’t, they’ll let you know with early onset defoliation. If trees or shrubs do start to turn color and drop their leaves, you may be able to stop it by watering. Mature woody plants won’t die after only one year of premature defoliation, but it might be worth a visit by one of our Plant Health Care professionals to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition contributing to the condition.

Young, recently planted trees and shrubs, should be high on your watering list. They need regular watering to assure that they get well established. Perennials (both woody and herbaceous) should be your next priority. Annuals and turf should be at the bottom. Annuals last only one season and are inexpensive enough that they can be replaced during the season. Grass has the ability to go dormant when it’s dry and green up again when the rain return.

We are fortunate that we have plenty of water available to us but that’s not a reason to waste it. Besides water isn’t free. You get billed for it regardless of whether it reaches the plants or evaporates in the air. The way to conserve water is to get it as close to the plant roots as possible. That’s best done by using drip emitters with your irrigation system or soaker hoses if you don’t have an irrigation system.

Soaker hoses are porous hoses made from recycled tires. You can thread them through a planting bed with the hose passing close to each plant. You only turn the water on a quarter turn so watering takes about the same amount of time as drip irrigation. The pressure from opening the spigot any more than a quarter turn can blow the hoses apart. For automatic watering with soaker hoses, timers that attach to the spigot are available.

If you choose to water your lawn, sprinkling is your only option. I’m reluctant to recommend this because the sun evaporates much of the water leaving the sprinkler
before it reaches the ground.

Whether sprinkling, using drip emitters, or soaker hoses, it’s best to apply the whole inch at once rather than a little bit each day. The water will penetrate deeper and encourage stronger roots this way. When sprinkling, an age old measuring method is to place a container like a coffee can in the stream and time how long it takes an inch to accumulate. Then each time you move the sprinkler you can determine how long it takes to apply an inch by looking at the clock. Soaker hoses take about an hour to deposit an inch of water.

One comment on “Plan To Water Your Valuable Plants This Summer

  1. I love California, and I love horticulture, but it can be frustrating to see how much water is wasted here in our chaparral and desert climates. I think that lush landscaping has its place, but it should not be the norm, at least here.

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