Economize when water is short

The three-digit temperatures we had several days in a row not too long ago, plus no rain, drained me out completely. Just watering the most essential took me over an hour each morning, leaving no time or energy to tend to other tasks, such as removing weeds, tidying and deadheading the plants. By most essential, I mean plants whose need is relatively high, like the ones growing in containers, and those at risk, such as the dogwoods, magnolias and the azaleas growing in our front yard, which still are not fully established. These plants are also threatened by the silver maple growing nearby; while a nice shade tree, the silver maple unfortunately robs a fair amount of moisture from the ground.

Summers, unless we are lucky, tend to be a challenge for the garden, as well as the gardener; we start off so very enthusiastically in spring, but just when the time comes to sit and savor our efforts, rain refuses to come when we need it. While this is frustrating indeed, bear in mind that things can always be worse; it helps to modify our gardening practices so as to cope with natures’ adversities, such as insufficient rain. Below, therefore, are some random ideas, which are not new by any means, but do seem worth repeating.

  • Prioritize: Water in the order of need, for example, the container-grown plants and recently planted trees, shrubs and perennials. Also, while it hurts to do so, do away with the perennials that have been in the garden for a long time and hence have lost vigor, like our Shasta daisy, which has reached a point of no return due to lack of water.
  • Water deeply: As opposed to frequent shallow sprinkles, regular deep soaking is of more benefit to the plants and helps save water, as well.
  • Tackle the weeds: In addition to being a nuisance, weeds compete for moisture with our cultivated plants; keeping weeds under control is a good overall gardening practice anyway.
  • Mulch it up: Aside from the aesthetic value, mulch reduces water loss and keeps the soil cool around the plants.
  • Let the lawn wait: Healthy fescue lawns tend to become dormant during hot dry months if enough water is not provided, but do green up when the heat subsides and dry spells are over.

So, let’s get our priorities in order to conserve the precious resource and become water-wise gardeners; incidentally, the Chesterfield Extension Office has several publications on this subject if anyone would like to learn more about it.

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