Mama Mia! Here we go again with water, water, water needed everywhere, so use these tips to become the irrigation queen and water conservation king. The winner takes it all – in the fall – if you water and deadhead this month. Proper watering now will give your plants the energy for an encore performance in the fall.
Lawns — Water deep but water less often: Standing with the hose over your toes to hand water the lawn may feel good but it is unlikely you’ll stand there long enough to get water down to the top six inches of soil. Instead, the quick shot of water sits near the top and keeps those grass roots from reaching deep to find water. Water slowly, water deep and water less often. Lawns do not need daily water. Aim for one inch of water spread over a week’s time.
Just say no to the low mow if you want to conserve even more water: Allow the lawn to grow to three inches tall then remove only one third of the blade when you mow. A taller lawn shades and cools the soil and helps to shade out weeds.
Leave the grass clippings on the lawn to return organic matter to the soil and hold moisture.
If certain spots of your lawn dry out quickly, this is a most likely a grass-roots problem. Dig down and remove the large rocks, clay or hard-packed soil that is stopping the roots from reaching moisture deep in the soil.
Poor soil, poor lawn and the solution: Fall is the time to improve your soil by aerating and adding several inches of topsoil or compost right on top of your old lawn. Do not do major lawn renovation in the month of August. Late September is a good time to reseed with a drought-resistant Northwest lawn seed mix once the rains return. Or, if your soil is really thin, remove your old sod and add 12 inches of rich topsoil and till this into the top 18 inches of your old soil. A drastic renovation takes lots of money, time and research to find quality topsoil. Professional landscapers in your area may be your best source of good soil and great seed. The payoff to putting in the work to improve your soil is having one of those amazing lawns that can stay green all summer on rainfall alone. This happens when grass is grown on 18 inches of rich soil. Soils like this are most often found in the Kent, Sumner and Puyallup valleys.
Poor soil, poor lawn another solution: You can’t fight Mother Nature so give up trying to keep your lawn green if your soil is hard-packed, clay, thin or full of rocks. It may be more practical (and cost effective) to just allow the lawn to “go golden” every summer and then watch as it returns to green once the season changes. Another option is to replace your traditional lawn with a lawn-free alternative. A front yard courtyard or garden of pathways and raised beds can be the answer to no more mowing and a lot less water.
What plants thrive best with little summer water? You’ll have to wait until next week.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.
For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
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