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Ask Burton: This week, a simple reminder, and some tips on how to use water instead of wasting it. Please water more. And do so wisely – water isn’t cheap, and it’s the right thing to do.

Posted on June, 21

The summer’s heat is here, hotter and earlier than normal. Adjust your sprinklers and get up early to beat the heat for any hand watering needed. As a rough estimate, figure every ten-degree increase in heat basically doubles the water needs of your plants.

Now, there are some tricks to help conserve water and to use it more wisely. Set sprinkler systems to water in the 3:30-7 AM time slot to reduce evaporation. Mulch beds to a 2″ depth of your favorite color and texture of shredded mulch to conserve water further – the top two inches of a bed exposed to sunshine and wind dry out excessively. If those two inches are soil, the top two inches of your plants’ root systems dry out. If those two inches are mulch, your root systems stay happy. Mulch your containers as well!

For lawn watering, one deep watering per week will keep your grass alive, reasonably green, and in good health. Two such waterings a week will keep a lawn lush and perky. More than that is unnecessary unless you’ve laid fresh sod or spread seed recently. Test each section of your sprinkler system by putting several tuna cans (or similar, low canisters) in each section of lawn and watering manually until you have put roughly half an inch of water in them. That’s the amount of time that particular station should be set for, and if too much water runs off before the amount of water soaks in, break that cycle into two parts. Run half the time needed per station, cycle through the entire list, then set a second run immediately after your cycle concludes. This gives time for water to soak into the soil, reducing runoff.

There will always be plants in the landscape that need constant attention. Most containers will need daily watering at this temperature. When containers dry out (are drooping before you get to them), water those plants first. Take care of the rest of your necessary watering, then hit those drooping plants again. Dry, peat-based soil will often shrink and pull away from the side walls of containers, letting water fall right down the side of the bucket instead of soaking the root ball. The first watering plumps the soil back out to the edge of the container, and the second watering does a thorough job of wetting the plant properly.