The start of August is when our Western Washington soils begin to really dry out. Brown patches in the lawn and a droop to thirsty shrubs such as rhododendrons and hydrangeas is a reminder that even in rainy Washington we have a dry summer climate.
1. Potted plants will need more water as their roots fill up the containers.
This means if your hanging basket or patio pots were happy with watering once or twice a week in early June, they could need daily watering by the time August arrives and warmer weather combined with a full root system means less water storage in the soil.
2. Recycle the dripping water from hanging baskets. Position a container below your hanging baskets to collect excess drainage water.
3. Water in the morning if plants are susceptible to mildew. Warm nights and wet foliage creates a perfect home for mildew and mold and some plants such as impatiens, Sunpatients and begonias are more likely to suffer from these fungal infections. Watering in the morning means dryer soil at night so mildew will be less likely to grow.
4. Try not to wet the foliage of roses, boxwood and euonymus. Black spot, boxwood fungus and leaf gall all thrive on damp foliage. If you can keep sprinklers from hitting the foliage of disease-prone shrubs, you will lessen the chance of disease.
5. Don’t scald your plants with hot water from the hose. A hose sitting in the sunshine can heat up the water to a damaging temperature. Keep a watering can nearby and let the hose empty the hot water into a container before directing the water onto your plants. Then you can use the watering can contents once the water cools.
6. Water deep and water less often to train the roots. Vegetables, lawns, trees and shrubs all have roots that will grow toward moisture. By watering slowly so that the water can penetrate to a foot or more, the roots of your plants will grow deeper as they follow the moisture. This creates more independent plants with deep roots that will need less water. Running your sprinkler once or twice a week for an hour is much better than watering every day for 15 minutes. All soils are different and weather influences how much water plants need. You will need to dig into your soil to see how far your sprinkler or hand watering penetrates the soil.
7. Not all wilting plants need water. Some plants like hydrangeas will wilt on hot days even if there is plenty of moisture in the soil. If your droopy hydrangea perks up in the evening, it may not need more water. Too much water or poor drainage, especially in containers, can cause root rot which causes plants to wilt. Feel the soil before watering a constantly wilted plant. It could be wilting from too much water.
8. Water once, then water again. If you allow water to penetrate the soil then return and water again 10 or 15 minutes later, the moisture will be pulled deeper into the ground. This happens due to capillary action as water sinks lower and pulls additional moisture along with it.
9. Rain barrel? Bird baths? Use mosquito dunks. Standing water in bird baths, rain barrels, ponds and saucers under pots create breeding spots for mosquitoes. You can buy Mosque Dunks shaped like doughnuts to float in rain barrels or Mosquito Bits that are smaller granules to use in saucers. This chemical free product works using a bacteria that feeds on mosque larvae but is safe for other wild life.
10. Take the time to enjoy watering your plants. Slow down, observe new growth, take a deep breath. Allow the art of nurturing plants to improve your attitude, your health and your property value. After all, it will be gardeners that save the world.
Got gardening questions? Need help? Marianne Binetti answers questions on the free site www.plantersplace.com if you click on Ask the Expert. You can also visit YouTube to watch Binetti garden. videos.
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