It’s been dreadfully dry so far this year, and no matter how well we irrigate we just can’t replace a rainfall. But some perennials are starting to emerge with new growth, and the ground is dry so they need some irrigation until we get some spring rains. Since water is such a precious resource, be efficient and careful with how it’s used. Good watering practices not only save water and money, but also promote deeper-rooted plants that are more drought tolerant and can survive summer heat. Plants that have deep roots have access to more water than shallow rooted plants, and will perform better and look more attractive when it gets hot and dry than plants that get watered too frequently.
A good general rule of thumb for watering plants is ‘deep but infrequent.’ This means to water thoroughly when needed so that water is pushed deep into the soil, but don’t water too often – wait until the plants really need more. For lawns, about one inch of water applied one day per week is adequate in the summer. In the cooler spring and fall, apply the one inch of water less often (every two or three weeks).
Some other practices to implement to promote a healthy and drought tolerant landscape include: generous use of mulch, drip irrigation instead of spray irrigation, utilizing more efficient spray irrigation for turf, rainwater harvesting, good plant selection, landscape planning with zoning/grouping of plants with similar water needs, and good soil management with the incorporation of compost before planting.
Mulch provides incredible benefits when it is applied correctly, compared to no mulch. Besides conserving water by preventing it from evaporating from the soil, organic mulch also moderates soil temperature, provides rich organic matter to the soil as it breaks down, controls weeds, improves water holding capacity of soil, and reduces erosion.
A colleague once said “sprinklers don’t waste water, people do.” Whatever the method used, whether hand watering with a hose or utilizing drip tubing or spray heads, water can be wasted if they system is poorly designed and maintained. Don’ t let automatic sprinklers run during or after rainfall, and don’t let drip irrigation fall into disrepair with leaks and other problems. Well-functioning irrigation helps plants stay healthy, protects our water resources, and saves money on the water bill.
Join us Wednesday, March 23 for a Home Landscaping Seminar focusing on lawn care, tree and shrub planting and care, and landscape plant selection. Visit https://tomgreen.agrilife.org/ for details and to sign up, or call the Extension Office at 325-659-6522. Also, don’t miss the annual Concho Valley Master Gardener’s Plant Sale Saturday, April 2 at 8 am Keep an eye on https://txmg.org/conchovalley/ for announcements and updates.
Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at email@example.com.