Land Art Blog

Dry Conditions in August Mean It's Time to Water in September

September 2, 2015 | Comment | Blog Archive


Although we had an abundance of rain in the early summer, according to the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, "The measly 1.16 inches of rain we saw at National was the second driest of the 2000s, but 15th driest of all time."

The Land Art crews also are reporting bone-dry conditions at our work sites. The ground is so hard that we've broken all our moisture meters and had to run out and buy more!

The good news is that we should enjoy at least another week of sunny, dry summer days. The bad news is that your landscape, and especially those newly planted specimens, may die of thirst if you don't act quickly. If you've slacked off on watering your plants and lawn because the early summer was so wet, it's time to set up that sprinkler or crank up your irrigation system.

If you have an irrigation system, review the manual and adjust your system's settings to address the dry conditions. If you don't, get out your hose and start hand watering those plants. Use a sprinkler if you don't have the time to stand there, admiring your landscape as you water. (But maybe you should make the time. It'll be cold and grey soon enough.)

How much water do plants need? An easy way to monitor and maintain the proper amount of water is to use a moisture meter. You can spend a lot of money on fancy ones, but the truth is they break easily, especially when the ground is dry and your plants are most in need of monitoring. We picked up the meter pictured below for less than $8 today and advise that you do the same.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments offers some great tips in its Waterwise Guide (PDF available here). They suggest a 1-2-3 Rule of Thumb to determine the correct depth for watering:

    1 Foot is the correct depth for small plants, such as groundcovers and annuals.
    2 Feet is the correct depth for shrubs.
    3 Feet is good for large shrubs and trees.

To calculate the number of gallons, get a rough estimate of the diameter of a plant's canopy and use the chart below to determine the amount of water it needs.

 PLANT CANOPY DIAMETER IN FEET
1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
PLANT/GALLONS 
TREE1.5 5 11 16 22 26 38 59 85 115 150 190 235
SHRUB1 4 8 12 17 20        
SMALL PLANT OR GROUNDCOVER.5 2 3.5 5 7 9        

Up for the zen of hand watering? Use this nifty calculator to find the number of gallons per minute your hose will deliver. Remember to water around the dripline, which is the soil beneath the edges of the plant or tree canopy. The roots are there and they'll carry the water to the tree or plant. See the MWCOG Waterwise guide for more tips.

If you've invested in your landscape, you need to protect that investment by taking some simple steps to keep your plants healthy and hydrated. A little care and attention will go a long way to maintaining your beautiful landscape for years to come.

Thanks so much and enjoy the last days of summer!

Jimmy found these on sale locally for less than 8 bucks!

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