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June 21, 2006
The Summer Watering Issue

watering can

Summer Swelter...
The first day of summer is here and it sure feels like it - Hot! It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for us. July and August are typically scorching, dry and miserable. I guess one could only hope that this summer might be different. No sense in getting too excited about a change. Having lived in the Midwest for many years I have learned at least one thing - the summers are hot and humid - period. So we will prepare accordingly and make sure that to keep an eye on our plantings. Remember the rule of thumb - an inch of water a week will keep everything in the garden looking its best. So if Mother Nature is not helping out remind yourself to water, water, water.

Every year at this time we dedicate an issue to just that - watering. I hope you find the tips helpful. We always receive so much positive feedback on this particular issue. I think everyone needs an extra reminder during those hot periods, especially when your gardening spirit is waning. Remember that staying on top of watering now will result in healthier plants both short term and long term. So, don't forget to water.

New house update.  We're moved in (mostly) and ready to tackle the landscape.  Lots of great trees (including a huge Ginkgo), nice lawn, and plenty of room to plant. We even discovered a mama duck and her nest of eggs in the garden (photos).  We've already had Ryan Lawn & Tree out to assist us with what they're best at - lawns and trees! More updates as we go... 

~ Shelly  

Veggies Need More...
We've stated in the past that most gardens require one inch of water per week.  As the weather heats up however water consumption for a vegetable garden will gradually increase up to two inches of water per week and then taper off again as the weather cools.  Remember that it is imperative for you to water deeply once or twice a week.  Watering a little bit every day is just not good for the plants.

Other watering tips for your veggies:

  • Concentrate your watering in the root zone.  Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems are great methods.  
  • Related to the above, try to minimize watering of leaves.  This will help prevent disease. 
  • Water in the morning between 6:00 and 9:00 AM.  Midday watering wastes water.  Evening watering may lead to plant disease.
  • Keep the garden well weeded to eliminate competition for water.
  • Use mulches to aid water retention in the garden soil.

Coping With Containers...
Container plants (those in pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, etc...) are the first to be affected by lack of water.  Since the container itself is exposed on all sides the sun and heat cause the limited amount of soil to dry up much quicker than in a garden.  As a general rule you should water containers until the water drains out the holes in the bottom.  During the summer it is not unusual to do this two or three times a day.

Competitive Nature...
Don't let grass or weeds grow beneath your trees and shrubs.  They compete fiercely for available water and will slow the growth of trees, especially newly planted ones.  Worse yet, the longer turfgrass grows under trees and shrubs the greater the reduction of new growth.  Left alone a cumulative effect may decrease tree growth for several years.  For instance, if the growth of a tree is reduced by 20 percent for one year because of grass competition, the growth automatically is 20 percent less during the second year's growth.  Grass competition alone reduces tree and shrub growth by as much as 50 percent.


Flowers - Blooming Not Burning...
Different flowers have different watering needs.  The one inch of water per week rule is a good start but it's always best to keep an eye them.  Look for the telltale signs of drought stress including wilt, droopiness, and the premature loss of foliage and/or blooms.  Like vegetables your flowers will benefit from deep and infrequent waterings.  Also, a couple of inches of mulch will do wonders to help retain soil moisture during the hot sunny weather.

Another good long-term strategy would include greater use of drought tolerant flowers.  Savvygardeners can find a list of these water efficient marvels (suitable for the Kansas City area of course) here...

What Are You Reading
When You're Not Reading

Great Gardening Magazines
Are Right Here!


A Hose By Any Other Name...
Hoses are easily the most common means of getting water to your gardens and containers.  Most gardeners give little thought to their hoses until it's time to replace them.  If you are replacing a hose or just interested in a new one take a little time and choose one that's best for you.  Like most tools, hoses are available in varying quality levels with prices that usually follow.  Hoses come in different diameters but 5/8-inch is the most popular.  Different diameters deliver different flow rates and this may be an important factor in your choice.  Use this table to assist in sizing.  

Flow Rates from Different Hose Sizes and Water Pressures
Pressure 1/2 inch 5/8 inch 3/4 inch 1 inch
20 psi 4 gpm 8 gpm 12 gpm 26 gpm
30 psi 5 gpm 9 gpm 15 gpm 32 gpm
40 psi 6 gpm 11 gpm 18 gpm 38 gpm
50 psi 7 gpm 12 gpm 20 gpm 43 gpm
60 psi  8 gpm 14 gpm 22 gpm 47 gpm
Flow rates are in gallons per minute (gpm).  40 psi is typical water pressure for most homes.


Grass Guzzlers...
For many of us our lawns are the single biggest users of "gardening water".  Unfortunately excessive watering is wasteful and can actually be harmful to your lawn.  If waterings are too light or too frequent the lawn can become weak and shallow-rooted, which in turn makes it more susceptible to stress injury.  To make sure you get it right use the following steps to determine the amount of water your sprinkler or sprinkler system puts out and check its distribution pattern at the same time.  

  • Determine the rate at which your sprinkler applies water to the lawn. 
    • Set out three to five empty cans in a straight line going away from the sprinkler. Set the last can near the edge of the sprinkler's coverage. 
    • Run the sprinkler for a set time such as 1/2 hour.
    • Measure the amount of water in each can. 
    • Each can will contain a different amount of water. Usually, the can closest to the sprinkle will have the most water.  The sprinkler pattern must overlap to get an even wetness of the soil.  Use this information to find out how long it takes your sprinkler to apply 1 inch of water.  For example, if you find that most cans contain about 1/4 inch of water after the sprinkler runs 1/2 hour, it would take 4 x 1/2 or 2 hours to apply 1 inch.  
  • Run the sprinkler long enough to apply at least 1 inch of water or until runoff occurs. If runoff occurs first: 
    • Stop sprinkler and note running time. 
    • Allow water to soak in for 1/2 hour. 
    • Start sprinkler. 
    • If runoff occurs, repeat above steps until at least 1 inch of water has been applied and allowed to soak into the soil. 
  • Do not water again until the lawn has completely dried out. (This usually takes 5 or 6 days.) 
    • Apply enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. 
    • Avoid frequent light applications of water.
    • Water in early daylight hours. 
    • Select a turfgrass with a low water requirement. 
    • Avoid using soluble nitrogen fertilizers. (They promote high growth rates which, in turn, increase water requirements of the plant.)


"Along the river's summer walk,
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
The hoar plume of the golden-rod."

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

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