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Whether we are suffering through a prolonged drought as we are now or just trying to have your garden make it through the sweltering summers of the Carolinas, wise use of water is important.
Practicing water conservation not only helps protect the environment but also saves money and provides for optimum growing conditions.
Four simple ways to reduce the amount of water used for irrigation are: 1) choose plants that have adapted to dry conditions; 2) make good use of mulch; 3) add water retaining organic matter to the soil (compost); and 4) install (or allow to remain natural) windbreaks and fences to slow winds and reduce evaporation.
One important way to practice water conservation is to use efficient watering methods. Trickle and drip irrigation systems help reduce the amount of water needed to satisfy the water requirements of the plants. With these methods water is supplied to the base of the plant. Since the water is applied directly to the soil, rather than onto the plant, evaporation from leaf surfaces is reduced. The water is also placed where it will do the most good, rather than sprayed onto the entire garden.
Established lawns should be watered to a depth of 6-8 inches to encourage deep rooting. Usually one-inch of water per week is adequate and should be broken up into two separate waterings of one-half inch each time.
Cans or a rain gauge should be used to determine how much water is being delivered. Sandy soils require more frequent watering; apply one-half inch every third day. If you have an automatic irrigation system, it should be adjusted to compliment rainfall rather than remaining on a fixed schedule, otherwise the lawn will be over watered.
It is best for the plants (including turf) to water early in the morning to discourage the growth of fungus and disease and you will also lose less moisture to evaporation.
Water trees and shrubs deeply with a soaker hose. You will have to water them less often if you soak them well.
Aerate your lawn so water can reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
Keep weeds and insects under control as weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light and water.
Raise mowing height to encourage deep rooting, and mow less frequently as dictated by reduced growth.
Direct downspouts or gutters towards shrubs and trees. Install rain barrels to retain rainwater for later use in the garden.
Some flowers and bulbs for dry areas are: Yarrow, Wormwood, butterfly Weed, Cast Iron Plant (for shade), False Indigo, Daises, Tickseed, Coneflower, Globe Thistle, Barrenwort, Coral Bean, Gaillardia, Guara, Perennial Sunflower, Hellebore, Daylily, False Red Yucca, Candytuft, Bearded Iris, Red Hot Poker, Lantana, Lavender, Blazing Star, Evening Primrose, Creeping Phlox, Rosemary, Black Eyed Susan, Mexican Petunia, Sedum, Hens and Chicks, Purple Heart, Goldenrod, Lamb’s Ear, Thyme, Verbena, Yucca and most succulents.
Preparing your garden for drought conditions allows you more time to relax and enjoy your beautiful flowers and shrubs as they come into bloom. So, as always, make certain to have a comfortable sitting area and/or a hammock in your garden as a proper place for the gardener to rest!
“Climate is the single most important factor in how plants grow–indeed in what we select to plant in the first place.” Jack Kramer
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Answers may be printed in this column.