How to Water a Garden During the Heat of Summer

In addition to irrigating plants, sprinklers allow children to cool off during the hot summer months. (Photo: Alexander Redmon/ it comes to watering the plants in your landscape and garden there is nothing like a long, gentle soaking rain, especially during the hot summer months.  As there is no guarantee that you will get regular rainfall when you most need it, what is the best way to water your plants and keep them lush and happy?  There are a number of factors to consider when you water your garden. 

The amount of water needed differs among individual plants and the type of soil they are growing in.   Sandy soils drain quickly; therefore plants growing in them may require watering twice a week, especially during the summer.  For plants growing in clay soils, which hold more water, less watering is required; once a week for established plants is usually adequate.   

There are a variety of methods for effective watering.  Remember, long and slow is best.  Watering thoroughly once a week, (there are exceptions with new plantings and annuals) so that water gets to the roots of your plants, is better than sprinkling your garden each day.   I suggest starting in the early morning, before the sun begins to wilt plants.   Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to divide it into sections so that you can water one section one day and another on alternate days.   If you have a permanent irrigation system, you can set it to operate in different areas for various amounts of time, depending on the needs of the plants you are growing.  For example, you may have sun loving perennials in one area that will require watering at least once a week, while another area devoted to shade lovers will not dry out as quickly. 

Sprinklers are easy to use provided you allow enough time.  I prefer the oscillating types, which can be adjusted to fan out over an area.   Allow one to two hours, depending on the size of the area you are watering.  Soaker hoses also work well and you can place them where they are needed most in the garden.  You can attach the soaker hoses to an inexpensive timer too. 

If you’re not certain how much water is being applied by your lawn sprinkler use some shallow cans (tuna fish cans work well) to measure the amount of water applied by your sprinkler in one hour.  Then measure the depth of the water in the cans.  If the average depth is one-half to one inch, then you know that the root zone has been irrigated. 

For new plantings of shrubs and trees, put a hose at the base of the plant and thoroughly soak the root ball once a week.  As the plant grows larger remember, that the size of the root zone will also increase.  For plants growing in containers, water until the water rushes out the bottom holes in the pot.  During the summer months some container plantings may need to be watered twice a day.  If you feel the soil with your finger and the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. 

Applying a layer of mulch; one to two inches, will help conserve soil moisture and keep roots from getting too hot or two cold.     

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