Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2009
Regional Report

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It saves water to provide your lawn a good soaking, but less often, rather than light, frequent irrigations. Run your sprinklers enough to apply 1/2 to 1 inch of water.

Tips for Being Water Wise in the Landscape

We are most likely in for another long, hot southern summer. Along with rising temperatures come rising water bills as residents turn on the faucets to rescue their thirsty plants from the infernal heat. Here are a few tips to guide you in maintaining an attractive landscape while getting the most out of your watering dollar.

Tip #1 - Water deeply and infrequently. Provide a good deep soaking and then allow the soil to dry out a while before watering again. It takes 1/2 to 1 inch of water to wet most soils to an acceptable depth for lawns, flowers, vegetables, and shrubs. A rain gauge or straight-sided container such as a tuna can set on the lawn is the best way to determine how long to run your particular sprinkler system to apply the correct amount of water.

Keeping the soil constantly wet results in waterlogged lower zones and can promote root rot. Frequent, light watering promotes shallow rooting and wastes water since a higher percentage of what you apply is lost to evaporation from foliage that remains wet after the short watering cycles are over.

Tip #2 - Water early in the day. The early morning hours provide the best water pressure and the least evaporation. Once the sun comes up the rate of evaporation begins to increase. By watering very early in the day you get the most from your watering dollar.

Watering at night minimizes evaporation but leaves the foliage of plants wet for longer periods of time after the watering cycle, which may result in an increase in foliage diseases.

Tip #3 - Raise mowing height. There is a correlation between mowing height and rooting depth. Set your mower to a higher setting in the summer months. This results in a stronger, deeper-rooted, more drought-resilient grass plant. It also creates a thicker-looking lawn and can reduce weed problems as weeds tend to be more prevalent in thin, closely mowed turf. Mow often. The more often you mow, the denser the turfgrass will become.

Tip #4 - Don't overfertilize the lawn/ Without some fertilizer a lawn can become thinner over time but too much nitrogen fertilizer results in lots of topgrowth at the expense of root development. This mean more mowing, less drought tolerance and increased susceptibility to some turf-feeding insects.

Tip #5 - Maintain a surface mulch in garden beds. Mulch helps lower soil temperature, deter water robbing weeds, and protect the soil surface from crusting. It also helps slow runoff so water moves down into the soil better whether from rain or irrigation. Maintain a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch in flower and vegetable beds and 3- to 6-inch deep layer around trees and shrubs. Leaves, dried grass clippings, wood chips, and bark all are excellent natural mulching materials.

The next column will continue where this left off with 5 more tips for being water wise in the landscape and garden!

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