July 29, 2010 in Washington Voices

Water wisely to keep the lawn green

Pat Munts Correspondent
 

A simple battery timer hooked up to a microspray watering system can take the worry out of watering container plants.
(Full-size photo)

The cool air and rain have been replaced by our usual run of heat and dry skies. It’s time to say goodbye to green fields and haul out the hoses.

Lawns really take a beating when it gets hot, unless they are watered properly. Most bluegrass turf needs an inch to and inch and half of water or more a week depending on your soil type. The best way to get that amount is to water for longer periods of time with longer intervals between waterings. Watering for longer periods gets more water down into the root zone where the roots can better use it. If you are watering your lawn 15 to 20 minutes a day now, try upping that to 30 minutes every other day. It’s the same amount of time and water.

Shrubs and trees, especially newly planted ones or those in lawn areas, will need deep soakings every couple of weeks until it rains in the fall. Simply snake soaker hoses through shrub beds or around tree drip lines and set them to run for a couple of hours.

Container plants are at our mercy for water in the heat. A windy, hot day can suck the life out of even a large container in a matter of hours. Large containers made of plastic or hard fired ceramic are easier to keep wet than small ones or those made of terra cotta or wood. Plan accordingly. Try sinking small pots that dry out quickly inside larger pots filled with soil or bark to keep them cool. Be sure you water the small pot and not the outside layer. Group pots together so they can shade one another and create a little pocket of humidity. If you have an old umbrella, stick it in a pot to provide shade or place smaller pots in the shade of larger ones.

Most container plantings this time of year don’t mind a little shade in the afternoon so group them on an east facing spot or take advantage of the lengthening shadows and pull them into an afternoon shade spot.

Set up a regular watering schedule and stick to it. Be prepared to water twice a day if it gets really hot and windy. Water until water comes out the drain holes in the bottom of the pot. Make sure the water is soaking in and not just running down the outside of the root ball. If a pot dries out place a slow feed of water in it for several hours.

If this cramps your trips to the lake or vacations, invest in an inexpensive microspray drip system set on a battery powered timer. All the components are available in the drip irrigation section of home improvement stores or as kits on line from garden supply companies like Lee Valley Tools or Gardeners’ Supply. The timer can be set to come on at intervals of a few hours to every couple of days. Use microsprayer or shrubbler heads that spray rather than drip heads as they cover more area.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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