With all of the press that the environment has received for a generation or so, one fact seems overlooked: people who enjoy the gardening experience will tell you that they appreciate the benefits of clean air and water above all. Gardeners are in the clean air business, seeing as all of the oxygen that we breathe comes from green living plants.
It only makes sense that we pause this time of year to reflect on the things that we can do to preserve fresh water and minimize the impact of the ‘haze days’ we will experience this summer.
Let’s start with the lawn.
I recommend that you apply water only once a week. Watering your lawn about three centimeters deep this time of year makes sense if you are trying to drive the grass roots deep.
As we approach the hot months of summer I recommend that you stop watering your lawn altogether. True, the grass will turn brown, but it will not die. It will just go dormant. It will sleep until the cooling evening temperatures of August return along with the heavy dew of late summer.
Consider not watering your lawn at all. Lawn growth may slow or go dormant earlier, but that will leave you with extra time for the things that you enjoy more than cutting the lawn.
Miracle of Mulch.
In your garden the preservation of water is as close as your garden retailer. A 5 cm layer of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch will work wonders. You will reduce watering by up to 70%. Mulch is perfect for the perennial, rose and shrub garden. It will help young trees to establish roots without the risk of overwatering or drying out.
Bark mulch works nicely with annuals too, but you should lay the mulch down first and move it back as you plant rather than risk damaging the young plants after you plant them in the ground.
Finely ground up cedar or pine bark will also reduce your weeding by up to 90% the first year. Bark mulch will ‘shade out’ weed seeds and insulate the soil from the heating rays of the sun. The few weeds that do appear are easily removed as they root in the loose mulch, rather than in the more dense garden soil.
Here are a couple of reasons why you should consider getting a rain barrel for every downspout around your house even if you have no concerns about water rationing or the expense of acquiring water at your house:
- Rain water is oxygen-charged. As it falls out of the sky, rain picks up 30 to 40% oxygen by the time it reaches the ground. Every plant in your garden enjoys a drink of oxygen rich rain water.
- It is warm. Do you enjoy taking a cold shower? Neither do your garden plants. Perennials, roses, annuals and the flowering plants in your hanging baskets and containers will notice. Try watering some plants with rain barrel water and others with cold tap water. You will see a difference within a month.
Let Them Dry Out
A final word on water preservation for your garden: let your plants become dry between watering. Not ‘bone dry’ just ‘on the dry side’. I have heard many gardening professionals say this: the #1 reason for plant failure is overwatering.
Fact is, allowing the soil to dry allows air pockets to form with valuable oxygen. At the root zone this is beneficial for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the need to breathe. Think of plant roots as the lungs of the organism.