Many of you have used this spring to start a garden, and learn more about caring for plants. This past June has been very dry, so we wanted to offer some tips and tricks on how to protect your plants during drought conditions. Symptoms of prolonged thirst in plants:
- Wilted or drooping foliage
- Crispy brown edges on leaves and flowers
- Shorter bloom periods and fewer blooms
- Breaking stems
- Weakened plants that are more susceptible to insects and disease
- In extreme cases, plant death
Here are several ways to protect your plants:
Water your plants correctly. This means that you want to water your plants weekly and deeply, using the trickle method at either dawn or dusk. Create a moat around the base of a plant with mulch or soil, and allow a hose to trickle water at the base of a tree or shrub for about 20 minutes. This will help the water pool by the base of the plant, penetrate the upper surface of the dry soil, and trickle downward to the plants’ roots, versus running across the soil’s dry surface to no effect. You can also use a sprinkler to cover larger areas of your lawn or garden, letting the sprinkler run for about 20-30 minutes in each section. It’s best to water in the early morning or early evening, so the water will not evaporate quickly under the sun’s midday heat. Learn more about watering correctly in a recent video we made.
Use a proper watering can so you’re not blasting a powerful hose at your plants. Hold the spout of the watering can at the base of the plants and water by the roots gentle.
Water newly established plants more often because their roots have not yet had time to spread out and make good contact with the surrounding soil, so they will need a little more help in accessing water. Once established, they will need much less babysitting.
When you install a new plant, water the bottom of the hole, then water the plant again after its roots are covered with soil. Then mulch to keep that moisture down in the soil.
Consider installing a drip irrigation system if you can. You can tailor the lines to run to certain plants and set timers for each line, giving each plant a slow drip of the appropriate amount of water each plant needs.
Tree water bags can be wrapped around the base of a tree and filled with water, trickling slowly toward the tree’s roots.
Add compost. Soil that has a healthy amount of compost in it is more effective at retaining moisture. Plus, sandy, dusty, and parched soil will often be hard like a rock and covered by a fine silt, making it very hard for water to seep into it. Add compost to your soil in both spring and fall to keep your soil porous and accepting of water.
Mulch. Cover the base of your plants with a 2-3 inch layer of mulch every spring. This slows water evaporation and helps the plant retain available moisture.
Weed. Get rid of any unwanted plants that are absorbing precious water and nutrients from the surrounding soil.
Use mild fertilizers once a drought begins. We recommend Neptune’s Harvest or Superthrive because they contain composted ingredients such as fish and seaweed, which will help to feed the plant and hold in moisture. Do not over fertilize because it will encourage the plant to produce more leaves and blooms, spending precious extra energy it can’t afford.
Deadhead spent flowers so your plants do not put energy into seed production. Let the plant use as much of its energy on maintaining healthy roots and foliage as possible. Seeds are secondary to its basic health and fitness.
Pick drought-tolerant plants if you live in a climate that has drought fairly regularly, or for areas of your garden that get a lot of sun and struggle to retain moisture, like a sandy hillside in full-sun conditions. Drought-tolerant plants are only drought tolerant once they’ve been established. But like any newly installed plant, it will need time to work its roots down into the soil for proper water absorption.
Taking these actions should protect your garden for several weeks as you water by hand. Eventually, the sky will open up and pour that sweet rain down on us. What a relief!
We’re Ready to Help
We have compost, mulch, fertilizers, water bags, watering cans, and various hose heads to help you water you garden quickly and efficiently. Come on by to shop our selections.