Watering in the heat of summer

July 16, 2022

It's starting to heat up out there! And with the heat of July often comes drought as well. We often go weeks where the only rainfall is a fast moving thunderstorm or a brief shower. This wreaks havoc with our flower beds, vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs, not to mention our lawns. Drought stressed plants are prone to losing foliage, browning leaves, drooping flowers, and are more susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew.

 

So how do we keep our gardens hydrated and looking good through the hot, dry days of July? Watering frequently isn't always an option if you are on a well or if your municipality puts watering restrictions in place. So we have to water smart - it's not about quantity but quality! For instance, watering gently and deeply with a soaker hose or root feeder means more water will reach the roots of our plants than if we just deluge them for 10 minutes with a hose where water runs off the surface or evaporates and is wasted. It also means we can go longer between watering and encourages our plants to develop deep roots and become tougher.

Here are a few things to think about for watering different areas of your garden to minimize your water usage.

Flower beds

  • Most established perennials and shrubs planted in the ground can go up to 2-3 weeks without much extra water.  A bit of drought will actually make many plants stronger in the long run by encouraging them to grow deeper roots.

  • Give these areas a deep soak with a soaker hose or sprinkler every two or three weeks if we don't get enough rainfall.

  • When creating a garden, use good quality soil with lots of organic material like peat moss and manure or compost to help hold moisture. Consider using a 2-3" covering of mulch to reduce evaporation.

Trees

  • These rarely need any help to get through a drought, but if they start looking stressed, a good long drink with a soaker hose at the dripline (outer edge of the foliage where rainfall hits) might be in order.

New plants

  • The exception to the rule above is anything planted this year. New perennials and shrubs have not had time to extend their new roots and will need an extra drink every few days.

  • Use a  root feeder or simply put your hose on just a trickle at the base of the plant for 15-30 minutes (time depends on the size of the plant and the dryness of the surrounding area) and repeat twice a week for the first month and then reduce to once a week for the next month.

Annual containers

  • Any plants in pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, etc. need to be checked for water every day to look their best. Learn which plants need constant moisture and which prefer to dry out a bit and always test with your finger to assess what they need.

  • When watering pots, make sure to fill them until water comes out the bottom.

  • Make sure you have a plan for someone to check on your containers if you have to be away for more than a day.

Vegetable gardens

  • Most vegetable plants prefer an evenly moist soil to produce the best fruits and stay disease free. Check daily and  top up as needed.

  • Pots and raised beds dry out faster than those in the ground.

  • Use good quality soil like triple mix which contains peat moss and manure to help retain even moisture.

Lawns

  • Established grass will survive a drought by going dormant - it turns brown & crsipy and stops growing but greens up once the rain starts again. Watering deeply and less frequently (once every couple of weeks) will help your grass to develop deeper roots which will be less affected by drought conditions and insect damage too.

  • New lawns started by sod or seed will need to be watered more frequently until they develop deep roots. In the fall and next spring, overseed with drought-tolerant grass varieties to create a tougher turf that can survive July's worst heat.