Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.By Darrin Parmenter
After a blistering end to June, these July rains have done a wonderful job at cooling things off and easing the stress on some of our plants. I’m pretty sure I’ve written this on multiple occasions, but the month of June is not very friendly. It’s hot: 10 days of 90 degrees or higher; and it’s dry: 0.30 of an inch of rain for the entire month (and it all came on June 29).
It’s a month that weeds out the weaker gardeners and those who go away for their summer trip and come back to withered plants; a month that stresses our lawns to the point where many of them go summer-dormant and turn yellow (don’t worry, they’re not dead); and a month where we all see how adaptable some plants are, as the thistles and yellow sweetclover flourish in otherwise challenging environments.
But all it takes is a couple days of good rains with some cooler days and nights, and life seems to return. If you have a watering routine or an automatic irrigation system, you may have to adjust the amount of water you apply to the landscape. Make sure you recognize the water requirements of the plants in the landscape – lawns and vegetables need more water; established trees typically require less frequent waterings than recently transplanted ones; xeric, or water-wise, plants won’t have the same water requirements as other perennials and flowers.
Before each irrigation, check how much moisture is present in the soil. It is important to assess the moisture in the soil because clay soils, which are common to Colorado, hold moisture for long periods of time after they become water saturated. One technique to evaluate soil moisture is to use a 6-inch screwdriver to probe the soil. If the screwdriver inserts into the soil easily, water is often not required.
To minimize water waste during the irrigation of a clay soil, cycle irrigation run times for five minutes on then five minutes off to allow for absorption of water deep into the soil.
If you are interested in seeing how efficient your sprinkler system is, the Colorado State University Extension Office developed a Lawn Irrigation Self Audit toolkit for homeowners to take action against irrigation practices that can lead to over- or underwatering. If you are interested in an audit, call the local office at 382-6465.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.