Spring has finally sprung along the Grand Strand and April showers are guaranteed to soon bring May flowers. But following May comes the notoriously hot summer months, and how do you prevent the blistering sun from baking your freshly-planted garden? Here are some great tips to not only keep your plants lush and green, but also to help keep your water costs and usage down:
- Don't overwater your plants:You're surveying your garden one day and notice some of your plants' leaves are wilting and browning, so you react the normal way: dousing everything with gallons of water. Wrong! It's a common reaction, but overwatering your plants can be as damaging as underwatering. Too much water will lead to root rot and soil compaction that basically suffocates your plants from the air they need to survive. Instead, use the rule of thumb of one inch of water per week for lawns and one to two inches per week for perennials and shrubs. And make sure to use a shower wand or soaker nozzle, not the old-fashioned thumb-and-hose combo. This will prevent overwatering and reduce water usage.
- Mind that mulch:Mulch is a great tool for helping soil retain moisture under sunny and hot conditions. However, if allowed to sit day after day in the sun it can bake and form a hard shell over the topsoil, preventing water from sinking down to your plants' roots. Make sure to check your mulch and break it up if and when this happens.
- Water with your morning coffee:Watering in the morning when temperatures are cooler will allow the water to be absorbed better by the soil and your plants' roots without quick evaporation. Watering your plants in the evening is an option and better than during afternoon, but overly moist conditions during the dark hours can lead to fungus, so be mindful of that.
- Cool water is more refreshing that warm water:Just like you, plants are not too keen on drinking up warm water on a sunny summer day. Warm or hot water can put stress on sensitive plants. If possible, try to keep your garden hose in a shaded area and if it's filled with water expel the warm leftovers before quenching your garden.
- Know when to water your lawn:It's easy to want to drench your lawn when it's been several days between showers, but test it before giving it a soak. An easy way to do this is simply step out onto your lawn. If the grass springs back relatively quickly, it's in good shape. You can also purchase inexpensive moisture sensor for your soil if you want a more accurate reading. Also, during the summer it helps to not mow your lawn overly short. Longer grass will promote deeper root growth and a more drought-resistant lawn.
- Proper watering intervals and soil moisture:As a general rule, it's better to water your plants more but to space out the intervals in which you water them. Watering less but more often leads to shallow rooting and inferior health. Perennials should ideally be watered every other day and shrubs can go three to four days between watering. Make sure to test your soil moisture as this can vary based on weather conditions. An easy way of doing this is with a screwdriver. Pierce the surface with a straight blade screwdriver. If your progress is easy, the soil is most likely moist. The drier the conditions, the more resistance you will encounter. If you have to struggle, it's probably a good time to soak your plants.
- Green thumb not necessary:Be careful to select plants that are suitable for the hot and sunny Grand Strand summers. No, that doesn't mean a garden full of cacti! Some of the best plants and flowers for dry climate and soil conditions include Gaillardia (Blanket Flowers, a vibrant daisy), Heliopsis (False Sunflowers), veronicas, yarrow, meadow sage and thyme. These will be easy on your water consumption and help you cultivate a bright and lively garden.
Utilizing these tips, you and your garden are sure to make it through the hot summer months without even working up a sweat! For more information and additional tips, check out the following resources.