Are your summer months spent traveling and vacationing in and out of town? Weekend road trips or a week at the beach can do some damage to your garden if you’re not careful. We take a lot of weekend trips during the summer and if I go a few weekends in a row hoping it’ll rain or forgetting to ask my neighbor to water, I’m in for dry and disappointing containers!
My herb containers are small so they dry out very quickly. The last time we headed out of town for the weekend, I tried a new method: upside down bottles. I grabbed a few old wine bottles and beer bottles, filled them with water, and stuck them upside down in the soil in my smaller containers. Voila!
The water in the bottle will slowly seep into the soil, keeping the soil and the roots consistently moist for a couple of days. If you’re gone for a whole week, you still might want to ask a neighbor or a friend to check in on your plants! I’ve also started using this method when I’m home, on particularly hot days. My small collection of herbs – basil, parsley, and mint – seem to love it!
Photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa
Here in Iowa, it’s been a hot, dry summer. Unless we watered our gardens regularly, a lot of our plants suffered. So far, it’s turning out to be a dry autumn, too, so don’t put away the water hoses just yet.
Keeping your favorite plants well watered this fall (especially evergreens such as: rhododendrons, pines, spruces, firs, hollies, andromedas, and camellias) is the best thing you can do to get them through winter so they look fantastic next spring.
Try to keep the soil evenly moist, like a well-wrung sponge. And, like watering in summer, it’s still best to water deeply and less frequently than to give your plants a little water every day. Additionally, it’s still helpful to prevent plant diseases by doing most of your watering before noon.
One question I hear often is: How long should you keep watering. That’s an easy one! Keep watering up until ground starts to freeze. Plant roots continue to grow and develop even after deciduous trees lose their leaves.
Watering now can do a lot to help keep your plants healthy next spring!
Des Moines is suffering under one of the worst droughts in decades. My garden has received less than 1/2 inch of rain in the past month. That, coupled with days on end of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F has created extreme stress on plants. I seldom water established plantings, but this year I’ve resorted to rescue watering for most of the plants in my yard. I’m not trying to keep everything in photo-shoot-ready condition. I’m simply trying to make certain the plants will survive.
Perennials, trees, and shrubs planted within the past two or three years are most vulnerable, but many well-established plants are also showing signs of drought stress. The shrub pictured below is growing on the south side of a parking garage. Reflected heat off the concrete wall creates a desertlike microclimate in this spot. The shrub should have been watered long ago. At this stage, it likely will suffer dieback of the growing tips. But if it gets water right away, it likely will resprout from the base.
Because water is in short supply during a drought, it’s important to water efficiently. Sprinklers can spread water over large areas, but they lose some water to evaporation as they sprinkle. And usually they also over spray onto sidewalks and driveways, where the water will simply run off. If you don’t have large expanses to water, consider using soaker hoses that ooze water the full length of the hose. For trees and shrubs, you can fashion a drip watering system by drilling a few holes into the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, filling it with water, and placing it near a tree to slowly distribute the water to the root zone. For large, well-established trees use several of the bucket to deliver more water.
What drought-defying tricks do you use in your garden?