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GARDENING: Know how to water correctly for summer’s heat

Staff Writer
Austin 360
When planting in summer for the fall garden, transplants need a little protection from the intense heat of the day. Diana C. Kirby

It’s official. The dog days of summer arrived while we weren’t looking. That means I’m tired of watering every single pot. Every. Single. Day. It means the air conditioning seems to run all day long trying to catch up. And, it means a extra shower most days, even after only the shortest time spent in the garden.

Sometimes, extra water isn’t actually helpful to plants. At a certain point, it’s really just the heat. (To be clear, it is NOT just the humidity.) Additional water might actually be too much for plants in the succulent family or plants that don’t like wet feet, such as lavender and rosemary.

As you try to figure out the right amount of water for your plants, don’t evaluate their stress by their appearance at the end of the day. Many will appear droopy by evening. Many will perk up when the temps cool down a little overnight and be much better the next day. Just like my mom used to say, “You’ll feel better in the morning!”

You should water your landscape and lawn deeply and less often rather than frequently for a shorter period. This ensures that the water reaches far down in the roots.

Don’t forget your trees. Newly planted trees need a deep watering every week or so, depending on the kind of tree and whether or not we’re lucky enough to get regular rain. Don’t just place your hose at the trunk of the tree. It’s better to use a soaker hose or a small sprinkler to reach around the drip line, directly under the end of the tree’s canopy.

Don’t neglect the rest of your landscape. Whether you own a large suburban lawn, or you’ve opted to go xeric, leaving grass only in a small section of your landscape, you still have to water your lawn. If it dies because you started a water strike, you might have to invest in new sod next year or plan to remodel your entire landscape.

Raise your mower deck and mow your lawn high. When and how high to mow depend on several variables like what kind of grass you have, the weather and your watering history. The general consensus, is that your blade should be raised between 2 and 3 inches when it’s really hot and struggling. Mowing high not only keeps your lawn healthier in the blistering Central Texas heat and drought, it encourages more root growth and can keep the weeds down because a longer, thicker lawn can choke out many weeds.

Plant new vegetables. If you’re anything like me, the last thing I want to do right now is rip out my summer vegetables and plant fall vegetables. But it’s time for several plants to get into the ground. You now can plant tomatoes, okra, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, corn, watermelon and pumpkins. They need bright sun, but should be protected from the sun during the hottest part of the day. To create a little shade, you can buy 30 percent shade cloth and use PVC pipe or rebar or tall plastic garden stakes to build a ceiling over the garden. Be sure to remove it the next morning, though. You should also keep new seedlings or transplants plants evenly moist for a while until temperatures cool down. If leaves start to yellow, cut back a little bit on the water.