Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Surviving triple digit temps in the garden

July is the peak water-use month for plants.  About 75% of plant problems occurring in summer are due to heat and drought stress.   Here are four easy ways to help landscapes survive the RGV’s summer heat.   
  1. Water wisely.   As a reminder, watering once a week deeply is better than watering a small amount each day or two.   The ground dries from the surface down.  If the ground surface is wet all the time, plants will grow shallow roots.  Letting the soil dry between deep irrigations encourages roots to grow deeper.   In addition to feeding the plant, roots also anchor it.    Over the last few weekends, I have installed drip irrigation to a couple of our planting beds.  I have wanted to do it for years but was intimidated.  Let me guarantee you that it is a very easy process - I'll post my specific "how-to" in a day or two. 
  2. Select plants that are native or well-adapted to our climate.    Look for those labeled “Texas Superstars” by Texas A&M AgriLife.    You may have the right plant in the wrong location.   “Full-sun” plants sometimes perform better with afternoon shade in the Rio Grande Valley. 
  3. Mulch, mulch, mulch.   Plants in landscape beds that contain 4-6 inches of mulch do not lose as much of the available water to evaporation.   Also add mulch to your container grown plants.  Mulch has been shown to reduce the water needs of container-grown plants by 25%.   Mulch cools the soil temperature, discourages weed seed from sprouting, and conserves water.   
  4. Install a rain barrel.   A one inch rain over a 1500 square foot roof will supply 900 gallons of water.  Rain barrels are available in many sizes, styles, and materials.  In full disclosure, I haven't done this yet - but I think I know where I want my first one . . .   Visit the Master Gardener Arboretum in San Benito to see a sample set-up. 


Ruth said...

Do you need to install a pump with the rain barrel?

Mary Beth said...

If your rain barrel is elevated you can water with gravity - but I have no practical experience with rain barrels. I really need to remedy that!