It’s mid-Summer. Your vivid green foliage wilts, turns brown, and may even die completely. Plants stop flowering or produce poor blooms. Lawns go dormant, shifting from a green carpet to a brown mass.
Successful gardening in Kansas necessitates keeping your lawn and garden thriving in extended periods of hot weather with little or no precipitation. Hot temperatures, drying winds, and a lack of precipitation in summer months make the Heartland a challenging place to garden.
Aside from the cosmetic, drought conditions weaken plants, making them more susceptible to insects and disease. Drought conditions can cause effects that last far beyond the actual drought – trees and shrubs, for instance, may show effects of drought damage for years.
Despite these challenges, gardens can and do thrive here. Combating these conditions takes extra effort, but there are some simple things you can do to ease the burden of drought on your garden and lawn.
The obvious thing to do is to water, but how frequently and how much are a constant conundrum. In order to stay healthy, most garden plants need about an inch of water per week. The best approach to watering is to water deeply and infrequently, perhaps weekly or every other week. You may be tempted to water more frequently, but applying water on a too-frequent basis discourages the roots from digging deep into the soil, where they stand the best chance for drought tolerance.
If you water with a sprinkler, you can gauge how much water you are applying by setting an empty tuna can in the path of the sprinkler. If you use soaker hoses or other methods of irrigation, you can probe the soil to a depth of 8-10” with a screwdriver. If the soil is dry, apply water. ALL-N-1 can help with creative, water saving irrigation solutions, including rain barrels and drip irrigation.
Don’t forget to water trees and shrubs too in periods of drought. Most of a tree’s roots are in the top 12” of soil, and those roots likely compete with other plants and/or lawn in order to survive.
Applying mulch is another water saving technique that will do wonders for your garden. A 3” layer of organic material will protect the soil from the hot sun, keep evaporation from wind to a minimum, and will keep the moisture in the soil, where it is needed by your garden plants.
Browning plants are an unwelcome sight, but resist the urge to fertilize in the heat of summer. Many plants will naturally go dormant in times of excessive heat and drought. Fertilizing stimulates plant growth, which will stress your plants in such conditions. Also, a lack of rain can cause fertilizer salts to concentrate in your soil, where they can do further damage to root systems.
Careful selection of plants can go a long way in having a beautiful landscape in hot summer months. Many native plants and grasses thrive in hot, dry conditions, Many weeds thrive too; make sure to keep them to a minimum so they don’t compete for resources with your desirable plantings. Deadheading flowers after they have bloomed will also conserve the plant’s energy.
For more information on sustainable, low-water, drought tolerant landscape ideas, or if you would like more information on native plants, rain barrels, or irrigation systems, please do not hesitate to contact ALL-N-1. We are well versed in combating the summer heat.