The weather has finally warmed up, and summer officially begins Friday. Along with becoming accustomed to the heat again, we’ve had to cope with a lack of rain. Here’s a review of good watering practices that keep plant roots going deep so that you use less water:
• Choose a tool — a trowel, a shovel, a soil probe or a long sturdy screwdriver — to check your soil regularly so you can monitor the moisture in it.
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• When water is needed — maybe the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil are dry —most flower beds will get by with watering once a week, deeply, extension agent Bob Neier said. If plant roots are not established yet, you may need to water more often than that for the first month.
• Monitor sprinklers to be sure that water is percolating into the soil, not running off.
• Be sure all your plants are mulched.
• Monitor buffalo grass in parks; if it starts to go dormant and turn brown, it’s time to water trees and shrubs — again, deeply. If there is no rain in two to three weeks, soak them again, always watering deeply.
• Water a fescue lawn only when it begins to show stress: The blades are starting to curl or to turn a gray or purplish color, and the top couple of inches of soil are dry. Put down an inch to an inch and a quarter of water at one time, cycling through the different areas of the yard and going back over them as needed, making sure water doesn’t run off.
If you let fescue go dormant but want to keep it alive when the weather is hot and there is no rain, water half an inch every two weeks. If the temperatures are not too hot, you can back off that frequency a little.
• Warm-season grass should be fine for a little longer without water, extension agent Rebecca McMahon said. If the temperatures stay in the 90s, water warm-season grasses, particularly zoysia and Bermuda, an inch every 10 days or so to keep it green, she said. If you let it go dormant and simply want to keep it alive, you can water it a half inch every few weeks, but warm-season grasses usually survive without any water in dormancy.
If there is more than half an inch of thatch in your warm-season lawn, now is the time to dethatch, McMahon said. If there is less than half an inch of thatch, leave it there for its cooling effects, she said.