By Connie Kotke, Master Gardener
Smart Water Use Helps Plants – and the Environment
Minnesotans often take water for granted. We’re used to having plenty of water available for our gardens and lawns, even when our local municipality restricts the days we can water during July and/or August. The problem is, climate change is accelerating drought and causing more extreme storms and weather patterns. Our summers may be hotter, longer, and drier, with more prolonged episodes of drought. June 2021, has been the hottest on record.
It’s time to incorporate practical, smart watering practices into our summer routines to protect this precious natural resource.
Water your lawn deeply—to a depth of about 6 inches. You can use a metal rod or soil probe to check how long to keep the sprinkler or irrigation system going in a particular area. Water about once a week, assuming no rainfall. This encourages root growth and drought tolerance.
Choose “drought tolerant” plants that will thrive with little irrigation (after the first 1-3 years when they are well established). By choosing the right plants for your site (soil type, light and space), your plants will grow deeper roots, have fewer pest problems, and require less water. Consider natives!
Mulch to conserve moisture. Several inches of compost cools the soil and helps deter weeds that compete with your plants for water. Also, it’s best to use a watering wand or can for annuals and perennials. Hose nozzles and sprinklers cast a wide spray that wastes water and wets the foliage…inviting disease.
Use sensors and smart controllers on automated irrigation systems. An ideal timer includes a rain sensor, which turns off the water if rainfall has occurred. Reset your timer monthly to accommodate changes in average temperature and weather patterns.
Use rain barrels or rain gardens to collect from Mother Nature. You’ll save money on your water bill and stop flooding and erosion.
Give trees and shrubs—especially newly-planted ones—direct watering at their base every 7 to 10 days. Water evergreens until the ground freezes.
For more information, check out these University of Minnesota resources:
Book: The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites — https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/51549