June is normally one of the wettest months in a year in Indiana. This year, however, we received half as much rain as we typically do — only about 2.25 inches depending on your location. As we head into July and August, we will be drier than usual. Couple that with hot summer temperatures and we have a situation where plants get water stressed — and fast. This means you’ll want to change your watering habits in the lawn and garden to compensate. Here are a few tips for effectively watering the plants around your home this summer:
Container plants — whether you’re growing a container vegetable garden or potted ornamentals, you’ll want to make sure you’re watering your container plants more frequently. For larger plants, like tomatoes and peppers, you may need to water as often as twice per day. And that means a good soaking. For flowers and other ornamentals, once a day may suffice, depending on the type of plant. Just remember, as plants get larger and grow more roots, they will deplete water from the container much faster. Check the soil surface in the container to see if it’s dry between waterings. If so, consider giving those plants a drink.
Lawns — we are heading into the brownest, crunchiest time of year for our lawns. Brown, crunchy lawns are just a sign that your lawn is dormant due to high temps and low rainfall. Dormancy does not mean dead, so if you choose not to water, no biggie (and you won’t have to mow as much, either!). If you do choose to water, the best time of day to run a sprinkler is in the morning, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Afternoon watering leads to wasted water from evaporation, and evening watering invites fungal disease to take hold, so avoid watering outside of the morning hours. During hot summer weather, a good watering 2 or 3 times a week should do the trick. Aim for an inch of water during each sprinkler session. One easy way to measure this is to set a container about an inch deep outside during watering (a tuna can works well for this). When it’s full, shut off the water supply.
Trees — even mature trees can experience drought and temperature stress. We just may not notice it right away. For example, the effects of the 2012 drought weren’t necessarily seen until a few years later in many of our mature trees. To keep your trees well-watered during dry times, aim to water about an inch of rain’s worth per week. This amounts to about 10 gallons per week for a tree that has a 1-inch trunk diameter. When watering a tree, make sure to water the area under the dripline instead of watering the trunk. The dripline is the area located under the outermost circumference of the tree’s canopy. This is where most of the roots can be found. A layer of mulch about 3 inches thick can be helpful in retaining moisture after watering, but make sure that no mulch touches the trunk of the tree — i.e. avoid “volcano” mulching.
Gardens — because of the wide variety of plants most folks grow in their gardens, the best advice here is simply to watch your plants for signs of water stress and water accordingly. Like lawns, the best time to water the garden is during the morning, especially if you’re using a sprinkler or hose attachment that gets foliage wet. We don’t want water droplets to magnify the sun and burn up leaves! If you’re using drip irrigation, your watering timing can be a lot more flexible, since that water is placed at the root and doesn’t involve any leaves getting wet.
Ashley Adair is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at email@example.com.