this Have you noticed that it has been hot and dry lately?
If you haven't and have not been watering your plants, I imagine
that your place resembles the Mohave Desert. Has your water bill
reached astronomical proportions? Maybe an evaluation of your
watering methods of different plant materials will result in more
efficient use of the available water and at the same time reduce
the amount you are using.
Beware of free water--you may have to settle for something less
GENERAL WATERING RECOMMENDATIONS
First check your methods of application. There is no use in applying
water any faster than the soil will soak it up. If applied faster
than this, the surplus will either run down the curb into the
street or else flood out your neighbor. Sandy type soils will
usually take water almost as fast as it can be applied but tight,
clay soils will take it up very slowly. Select the method of application
that best fits your soil. Drip irrigation systems for shrubs makes
the most efficient use of water for beds.
Secondly, use a mulch wherever possible. A good mulch conserves
moisture, prevents compaction, keeps soil temperature lower, reduces
week population and in case weeds do get a start, they are much
easier to pull if a mulch has been used. Check the depth of the
mulch material. Organic mulches tend to decompose or sometimes
wash away, so frequent checks and replacement where necessary
will help conserve moisture.
While night-time watering is conducive to development of plant
diseases in some environmental conditions, one does get more efficient
use of the water in the early morning and late evening when evaporation
rates are lowest. Also, as hot as it is during the night in the
summer months, watering at night will not be a significant factor
in disease development. These best time to water in the summer
is after 8 p.m. and before 10 a.m. If you don't have an automatic
watering system, invest in water timers (the Gilmour Mechanical
Timer sells in the $10-$12 range) which you can activate when
you go to bed and allow the sprinklers to water an area for two
hours per setting. Be careful to adjust the spray pattern so it
doesn't water the street! Since we are not functioning under severe
water restrictions, you can do this every night -- depending on
how many hoses and sprinklers you have - until the entire yard
Last, but by no means least, is the practice of doing a thorough
job of watering each time it becomes necessary to irrigate. A
thorough watering at 7- to 10-day intervals encourages deep root
penetration and full utilization of the available soil moisture.
Just because plants happen to wilt during the heat of the day
doesn't mean the soil is dry. If the plants are still wilted the
following morning, water that area the next night.
A good mix of a drought-tolerant ground cover such as Asian Jasmine
and artifical flowers may be the best rain-free summer planting
we can think of!!
LAWN WATERING AND CARE
A homeowner who wants to insure that the lawn grass survives
must have at least a basic knowledge of the important factors
that influence plant-water relations - then a good irrigation
plan can be developed based on sound principles.
Water management can be visualized as a bank checking account
with additions (inputs) such as precipitation, irrigation, dew;
losses (outputs) such as evaporation, transpiration, runoff, leaching
beyond the root system, water used in the plant for growth and
processes; and a reserve balance such as soil texture, plant root
depth at any point.
The maximum reserve pool of plant-available moisture depends
primarily on soil depth and texture as well as the extent of the
plant's root system. Thus, unlike a checking account which can
hold unlimited funds, the "reserve water account" has
a maximum limit determined by soil and plant factors.
A plant with a l2-inch root system has twice as much water available
to it compared to one with a 6-inch root system.
Major factors that limit rooting are: close mowing; excessive
nitrogen, irrigating lightly and frequently, compacted soils,
and root feeding insects.
In a home lawn situation management practices have a profound
influence on how often irrigation is needed because they affect
the growth and development of the plant.
A few examples will illustrate this principle:
A. Mowing Height - mowing too close for the species will result
in a much reduced root system and an open turf. The reduced rooting
decreases the "maximum reserve pool of water" while
the open turf results in higher evaporation versus transpiration
losses. The proper height to mow St. Augustine is 3 inches or
the highest setting that the lawnmower allows.
B. Excessive Nitrogen - applying nitrogen beyond the plant's
needs will cause a decline in rooting and promote excessive leaf
growth - more leaves for transpirational losses. This results
in transpirational water use beyond the real needs of the plant.
In fact, don't fertilize during periods of no rainfall. Generally,
fertilization once in the spring (after mowing the major grass
species present at least twice)
and in the fall in October is more than enough. If you want to
green lawns during the summer, use an iron-containing product
such as Iron Plus or Greensand. These are the ONLY two iron products
I have tested and found to be effective.
By observing indicator spots that first exhibit wilting - as
evidenced by a bluish-green color; foot printing; or rolling,
folding,, drooping of leaves, a homeowner can obtain some guidance
as to when to irrigate his site. Water "hot spots" or
those areas of shallow soil which dry faster than the rest of
the lawn by using a water targeting sprinkler. The best for watering
those narrow areas along sidewalks or driveways is the green Sprinkler-Soaker
Hose (Gilmour is most common brand) on which a low flow rate can
be adjusted with the sprinkler side facing upward and then the
hose can be flipped to provide a slow soaking without runoff waste.
Beware of the black, recycled rubber soaker or sweat hoses-they
are soon clogged with the calcium in our hard water and get brittle
in direct sun-making them useless.
Don't water more than you need to but certainly irrigate enough
to keep your lawn alive. The lawn may not look lush and green
during the summer but if it survives until the fall rains come,
you will not lose your entire lawn or have to replace the major
portion of the grass. Think survival and maintenance- NOT golf
Nandinas are almost as drought-tolerant as artifical plants!
WATERING OF NEWLY ESTABLISHED PLANTS
One of the most efficient uses of a valuable resource such as
water is to insure the survival of previously purchased plants.
Summer is a critical period for recently planted shade and ornamental
trees. Not yet completely recovered from the effects of transplanting,
they often need special care to withstand adverse weather conditions.
This is why major plantings should be done in the fall, winter
and spring-so the largest possible rootsystem can be developed
before environmental stresses have to be dealt with.
It is wise to water at regular intervals, all trees planted
within the past year. If the soil is sandy, water about once a
week; if it is clay or loam, thorough watering every ten days
of two weeks should suffice.
Using an open-end hose, regulate the water flow so there is
no run-off and let it run until the soil around the tree is saturated.
If the tree or shrub has been planted for less than a year, put
the hose end at the base of the plant so that the root-ball can
be watered. It takes several years for roots to expand into the
surrounding soil well enough to endure a severe moisture deficiency.
Until that occurs, you HAVE TO keep the original root-ball moist
or the newly planted trees and shrubs will severely defoliate
or, worse, DIE!
VEGETABLE GARDENING IN THE SUMMER
Vegetable plant demise in July is attributable to natural Texas
catastrophes such as spider mites, squash bugs and temperatures
over 90 degrees F. Vacations can also share the blame for the
demise of many Texas gardens. It is amazing how fast gardens decline
without water and pest control! For information about what to
do at this time of the year, see:
One week on vacation and encroaching bermudagrass shifts into
a supernatural growth rate adequate to founder a herd of goats.
Such invasions may not be of immediate concern, but fall garden
preparation will necessitate detonation expertise to rid the area
of the tenacious bermudagrass. To see how to handle these grass
invasions into the fall-garden site to be, see:
To find out what to plant and when, see:
SUMMER ROSE, CRAPE MYRTLE AND VITEX CARE
Roses also need special care during hot weather. Summer weather
will cause many area gardeners to lose interest in their roses,
since summer heat promotes small, faded flowers of poor quality.
However, if gardeners are persistent, proper care during July
and August will insure attractive foliage and an abundance of
flowers throughout the fall and early winter.
Poor cultural practices and neglect during summer months will
weaken plants. Here are some suggestions on summer care of roses:
1. As flowers fade and petals fall, remove old flowers. Otherwise,
food and energy will go into seed production rather than plant
growth and flower production.
2. When removing spent flowers, cut just above the second five-leaflet
leaf above the main cane or branch.
3. During hot, dry weather, water rose beds thoroughly every
week to a depth of 8-10 inches.
4. Control blackspot, mildew, spidermites and foliage-eating
insects by spraying with Ortho Orthenex as needed.
Spidermites encourage most gardeners to start over in the fall
with new pest-free fast-growing transplants of recommended varieties..
Another beautiful bloomer which needs your attention at this
time of the year is the crape myrtle. To insure optimum growth
and continuous bloom, a few steps must be taken. First of all,
mulch the plant with 3-4 inches of pine bark or any other organic
material. Do NOT pile mulch against the main trunk! Mulching helps
keep down weeds, keep the moisture level constant, cool the hot
summer soil and cut down on watering needs.
Secondly, remove seed pods. The crape myrtle will bloom continuously
for 100 days. Even this time period can be extended if the old
flower stalks are cut off and not allowed to produce mature seeds.
The 'Texas Lilac' vitex should also be managed like this. See: