As summer approaches, it’s time to step up our attempts to keep our lawns green and our gardens growing. But can we reconcile our desire for lush greenery, fresh veggies, and brightly colored flowers with the harsh reality of another hot and dry Texas summer? Yes, we can! Our team has put together a guide to keeping your landscape happy and healthy without driving your water bill through the roof.
It’s All in the Timing
Experts recommend watering your garden early in the day to allow plants to soak up as much moisture as possible. As temperatures rise, more water will evaporate before plants are able to use it. Watering in the evening isn’t recommended — it can lead to fungal growth.
Your regular old hose is pretty much the least efficient way to water your plants. It’s incredibly imprecise, so much of the water used is actually lost and never gets to your plants at all. Instead, try a soaker hose or a sprinkler wand. Watering cans, though labor intensive, are also a great choice to ensure you’re only watering where you want to. Also, plants want cool water, so if you currently store your hose in the hot sun, see if you can move it to a shadier spot. If not, allow the hot water to run out before giving it to your plants — you can save this water and use it after it cools off.
Another tool that comes in handy is a moisture meter, an inexpensive and easy to use way to determine the current moisture content of your soil. If you don’t have one, you can also use a screwdriver. Poke it into the ground — if it slides in easily, you’re fine; if not, it’s time to water.
Ms. Fancy Plants
Choose your plants wisely. Plants that use less moisture are usually small and slow-growing. They may have grey or silver foliage, which reflects sunlight, and leathery or hairy leaves. Try to avoid large, fast-growing plants and plants with large leaves, as they require more moisture. When in doubt, native plants and succulents are great choices!
Water the roots of plants and avoid the leaves. Don’t water outside the plant’s root zone. If a puddle starts to form, stop and wait for the moisture to soak in before continuing. Runoff doesn’t do your plants or your water bill any good.
Above all, avoid overwatering. Aside from being wasteful, it strips plants of nutrients and puts stress on their root systems. Also, many low water use plants will adapt to the amount of water they’re given. All those drought-tolerant plants you purchased will still soak up lots of water if it happens to be available, negating their benefits.
You don’t have to use new water for your plants. Install a rain barrel. Save the water after boiling pasta or veggies. Put a bucket in your bathroom and collect water as you wait for the shower to heat up. Most greywater is fine for plants, but avoid using water that contains bleach or disinfectant.
It’s not easy being green, especially during a central Texas summer. But maintaining your garden is possible (without spending a fortune on water!) as long as you’ve got the right plants, a few good tools, and the proper techniques.