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Lawn & Garden

Hot Summer Nights

07/01/2007 - Well it seems that the dog days of summer have snuck up on us a little early this year here in Casper. Normally, temperatures like we saw in late June would not be upon us until the first part of August. The sudden onset of hot temperatures often causes big problems for us in the garden. Many times a sudden heat wave will cause damage to our lawns and gardens, and even the death of some plants. This has lead to the common misconception held by many people that plants do not like the heat. On the contrary, most plants thrive in the heat of summer, it is our inability to adapt our growing practices to meet the changing conditions that causes their decline. An irrigation schedule that worked well in early June may be lacking now in July. In addition to changing the frequency of our waterings, we also need to think about any ways that we can conserve water, while still meeting the needs of our gardens.

As the drought wears on seemingly without end here in Wyoming we need to use every drop wisely. So how can we meet the needs of our plants in our gardens, while still feeling we are conserving enough water? This would seem to be a contradiction in terms. How can we have a garden that is the envy of the neighborhood, without pulling the cork out of pathfinder dam? The answer is found in a few common sense tips, and a thoughtful look at our own watering practices.

First, when is the best time to water? Plants use much more water during the day, than they do at night, so they need to have plenty of water at their disposal, throughout the sunlit hours. But we can't water during the middle of the day, and still feel like we are conserving water, because what water doesn't blow away in the wind evaporates before it reaches the ground. A good way to give our plants a good supply of water to make it through the day, without wasting it, is to water in the early morning. This allows the plant to begin the day with a full reservoir of water, and helps it last until the evening when the plant requires less water. Watering before bed at night slows evaporation, but it may also open the door for some pathogens such as powdery mildew to attack your crops. Early morning watering of lawns can help them stay green through the heat of summer as well.

In addition to watering at the right times we also must water in the right amount. Watering a plant completely is very important. To water thoroughly means making sure that all the root mass of a plant receives some water. Watering a flowerbed for 20 minutes in the morning is much better for the plants than watering it for 5 minutes four times a day.

The same is true for lawns, instead of setting the sprinklers to run 10 minutes every morning, try setting then to run for 20 minutes every two to three days. This will help the turf develop a good deep root system that will be more likely to stay green if the temperature rises over 100 for a couple days. If you are a container gardener, be sure to saturate the entire container with water when you water, then wait to water again until the top surface of the soil is dry. Good luck and hopefully these tips will help you turn your neighbors "green" with jealousy, and you'll still be able to sleep at night knowing that you are helping conserve water.

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