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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2007

Give plants enough water to survive heat

Are those annuals getting a bit demanding? Your plants can dry out in a hurry as the hot sun beats down on them. You have made a big investment in that landscape, so keep it healthy.

One of the best ways to keep plants looking good and growing strong is to give them enough water. You can always stand there with a hose in your hand and spend a peaceful hour or two watering your plants. But if you are running from work to baseball games, summer graduation parties, or soccer practice, you might be too busy to stand there with a hose all night.

The best time to water your garden or lawn is early in the morning, around 2 a.m. (or as early in the morning as you can). The winds are usually calm and the soil will soak up moisture before it evaporates in the day's heat. The leaves will get a chance to dry out once the sun comes up, which will prevent them from collecting fungus or bacteria that can cause other problems.

Here's how to monitor how much moisture your plants are getting on top and under the ground. Turn on your watering system and leave a tuna can or cup in the sprinkler's mist. Give your plants about an inch of water, then shut it off. The container will act as a makeshift rain gauge to let you know when you have given the garden enough moisture. Keep an eye out for areas that puddle up, or where leaves are turning yellow. Puddles and yellow leaves mean the plants are getting too much moisture. This might happen in a shady spot that doesn't dry out as quickly as a spot in the sun.

Get some help by using a simple soaker hose; you can find them at home and garden centers. Get enough to snake through your garden beds.

They will spray a fine mist on flowers and vegetables, keeping the mulched soil cool and wet. Before you start pulling hoses all around the yard, think about the path they will take. You might need one long stretch of hose, or connectors that split the hose in two directions to get around the bed efficiently.

You may need extra spigots near plants that require lots of moisture, or you may need to work around tough-to-reach areas like under shrubbery.

So, you just planted that tree you got from your neighbor? Well, it will need some regular watering. You have a few options. You can water it every night with a hose. Or, you can find a way to give it a water reservoir to keep it watered for a couple of days without your assistance. Since I like a low-maintenance garden, I would go for option No. 2. Drill a very small hole in the bottom of a five-gallon bucket and set it near the tree. Fill it with water and it will seep out of the bucket and into the ground, keeping the roots of your tree well-watered. You can also find a watering bag at home and garden centers. These bladders are dark green and do the same thing as the five-gallon bucket. They let the water slowly seep into the soil and keep the tree's roots moist.

You can also set your garden up with a custom irrigation system. That may sound intimidating and expensive, but it really isn't. Kits are available at garden centers. Some micro sprinkler systems will cover about 275 square feet. Plastic tubing snakes under plants and another smaller tube pierces it, sending a mist of water through a nozzle where it is needed.

Nozzles can be staked to spray tall plants or clipped to stay low to the ground. You can also wander through the plumbing section of a home and garden center to collect the half inch flexible hose, fittings, spray hose, and timers. Specialty stores and online suppliers carry nozzles and injectors.

The irrigation system can also be configured to include hanging baskets and window boxes.



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