Everyone wants to conserve water, so here are some tips on how you can use it more wisely on your lawn and landscape:
• Plant new trees (and shrubs) in fall or winter – Trees planted this time of year don’t need much water to get well set in before the next year’s summer heat. Trees can shade your home thereby creating a cooler environment and reducing summer air conditioning costs. Plant trees now to save yourself a lot of work and water next year.
• Mix expanded shale and “Soil Moist” in with flowerbeds and containers – Expanded shale will retain up to 37% of its weight in water, without causing your soil to become water logged. It’s a great material that you can buy separately or already pre-mixed in our Covington’s Soil Builder. Soil Moist is a gelatin like material that will hold even more moisture by weight, making it excellent for use in hanging baskets. Use one or the other (or both!) in all your soil mixtures for the best results.
• Mulch everything – Apply 2″-3″ layer of your favorite mulch in all flowerbeds, containers, and around new trees. A thick layer of mulch will drastically reduce drought stress on plants, as well as prevent weeds.
• Hand water – If you have new plantings, water them by hand as needed (or with a drip or soaker hose) rather than running your whole sprinkler system for unnecessary extra cycles. Adjust your sprinkler heads each spring to make sure they are all flowing properly and are pointed the right directions, then check them regularly to ensure they are working properly.
• Water an inch a week – Encourage deep roots on your lawn by watering no more than one inch of water per week. Water early in the day or late in the evening to reduce evaporation in the summertime. Turn your sprinkler off if we’ve had a good soaking rain…don’t water unless your plants need it! Invest in an automatic sensor for your sprinkler system so it will skip the next cycle if it detects enough rainfall. Adjust each station for the correct length of cycle by putting out low containers and measuring how much water each station puts out in a given length of time – one inch a week is the target.
• Plant well-adapted plants – Plant fewer things that need heavy watering, and plant more native and well-adapted species that don’t need heavy watering when established. For example, an azalea bed will always need more care, but a bed of tough “Knockout” roses and salvias can get by just fine with minimal irrigation, and give a great blooming show! Select your new plantings with care, and they’ll be easier to maintain with less water.
Preparing for Freezing Weather
Here are a few things you’ll need to do to make your yard ready for our first really bitter freeze of the season:
• Water! – Unless your soil’s already soaking wet, you need to water all of your flowerbeds, trees, and lawn. Water far enough ahead of time so that all water has time to drip dry off the leaves of your plantings before the freeze hits. Watch weather reports and if you know the severe cold is coming, watering the day before is ideal!
• Protect Container Plantings – Pansies, kale, and other winter flowers planted in containers will go through freezing weather and they won’t die from exposure to all except the worst freezes, but they can definitely be hurt and show that damage for several weeks after a really bad ice storm. When ice or sleet is expected, or severe freezing temperatures, bring your smaller containers inside the garage or inside the back door for the duration. If this is not possible, cover the plants securely with frost cloth. Definitely protect all of your tropical plants that have been outside until now by placing them inside by a sunny window until spring.
• Protect Flowerbeds – In-ground plantings aren’t as vulnerable to cold as your containers, but pansies may go flat for days, possibly even weeks after really bad ices. Frost cloth is a great way to give them just that edge of protection they need to spring back faster.
• Disconnect Hoses, Turn Off Sprinklers – Disconnect water hoses and place insulated covers over the faucets to protect them. Make sure your sprinkler system is set to “Off” when severe cold is expected. It is better to run your system manually as needed in the winter anyway, and sprinklers run during freezes can ruin your sprinkler heads and pipes, as well as the plants they coat in ice.
• Mulch, Mulch, Mulch – Put a 2″ or better layer of mulch on your trees, shrubs, flowerbeds (all of your landscape) to help maintain warmer soil temperatures and retain moisture. Plus it looks great and will help to keep weeds away.