Here are the top yard and garden watering tips to keep your flowers, vegetables, and lawn in the best shape possible as the temperature climbs, while practicing "water triage" to use precious water where it matters most.
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If you're a gardener - or actually a landowner with any type of landscape - you know that summer means watering. And more watering.
I don't know about you, but no matter how much I like gardening or even watering sometimes, around the middle of August I'm just tired of watering.
In addition, you may live in an area where watering the landscape is restricted at certain times of the year, so having a plan of what to water and when becomes even more important.
Since I like to make gardening as easy as possible, I've developed some garden watering tips and tricks to make it easier, as well as this great way to water your pots while you're away, but I've never shared the sort of "water triage" that I do at the height of summertime.
Basically, water triage is simply concentrating water in the most important areas of your yard and garden, typically the areas closest to your home. Then you slowly work your way out from your house to any other areas that may need water. And that back area not many see? It gets the least amount of water, and maybe none at all.
If you're like me, you'd like some details, please! So here are my tips for what I water and when, plus a few tips to keep your plants as healthy as possible during the hottest months.
If you're wondering how many times you should water flowers, what other plants or areas to water, or how often to water in the summer heat, I've got you covered.
Summertime Yard & Garden Watering Tips
#1 Watering Priority: Containers
There are a number of reasons why your containers should get the most of your attention and water when it's the hottest.
- First, there's simply less soil in containers (though larger containers are best because they can hold that much more), so less area for the roots to find water.
- There are more roots competing for the water than in the ground.
- The soil is light and airy, which is great for the plants and drainage, but doesn't hold water as much as garden soil.
- Pots dry out faster than flower beds, especially hanging plants and in dry, windy areas.
- Water flowers to keep them pretty and producing because it makes you happy!
When and How to Water Containers
Water your containers every day (north-facing or shaded pots may only need every other, even in the hottest weather - check the pot to see if it's wet at least an inch down). During the hottest weather your hanging plants may even need twice a day (morning and evening).
Use a hand-held watering wand that will reach all your containers, whether they are on the ground or hanging. So much better than shorter nozzles.
TIP: if you're like me and do not want to be bothered with watering some pots twice a day, add water-absorbing crystals to your potting soil when planting and you'll be able to go longer between watering.
Read this article for more on how to plant containers to thrive all season, including how to use the water absorbing crystals.
#2 Watering Priority: Vegetables & Fruits
It may be pretty obvious that the second area you'll want to concentrate water on in the summer is any vegetables and fruit you have planted.
You've invested time and money to grow food, so you want to make sure they can continue growing.
When and How to Water Food Crops
Set a soaker hose (or drip system) to run on vegetable and fruit beds every 5-7 days for 3-5 hours, depending on how much your soaker hose produces.
I'm a big proponent of soaker hoses with water timers (see below for what I use). Drip irrigation systems are also a great way to automate your watering to make sure your vegetables are getting watered deeply on a regular schedule.
Once fruit crops like berries stop producing, you can move to every other week watering, just to keep them alive through the heat.
TIP: I attach the soaker to a heavy duty hose like the Flexogen hose with brass quick connectors (seen in the photo above). It makes it easy to detach beds when I want to water less or I'm between crops.
You may have a few things in your vegetable garden that need hand watering (like the potatoes I'm growing in a garbage can!).
For that I like watering nozzles with easy thumb controls like the one pictured above.
TIP: Some vegetables actually need less water when they're fruiting. Tomatoes especially can become waterlogged and less flavorful from too much water when fruiting, so I actually taper watering back to every 10 to 12 days when they are producing.
#3 Watering Priority: Flower Beds Closest to House
Next on your watering list are any flower beds you and your visitors see, which are typically around your front door and any backyard living space.
These are not the things you want to let droop and get brown - that will just make you sad every time you walk by.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize the water and time needed to keep these areas in shape:
- Use soaker hoses in flower beds, like your vegetables, which allows you to water deeply right at the roots giving your shrubs, perennials, and annuals the water they need. NOTE: This is the brand of round soaker hose I use most and here are the newer fabric soaker hoses I'm using in my flower beds.
- You can set up a timer system for the flower beds, too, just like with the vegetables.
- Lay newspaper covered with a mulch every spring to not only keep weeds down (like, waaay down) but also to hold in the moisture longer during dry seasons. To use with soakers, lay the paper first, then put the hose where you want, and then cover all with a good layer of mulch, (either a feeding compost or a wood-chip layer if weeds are really bad).
When and How to Water Flower Beds
- Water the front flower beds that visitors see with a soaker hose every 5 days (let run 3-4 hours or until you see the ground with a good soaking).
- Beds filled with less established plants or mostly annuals can be watered every 3-4 days.
- Side and back flower-shrub borders only need a soaking every week to week-and-a-half.
TIP: These times are for established shrubs and flowers - anything you've recently planted should get water every 3-4 days, or as needed, through the dry months in it's first season.
#4 Watering Priority: Lawns
I may be in the minority with this one, but the areas that get the least attention during the hot summertime months in my yard and garden are the lawn areas.
Depending on where you live this may be different. You may have an HOA that requires you to keep your lawn watered.
Feel free to create your own water triage, moving this up to #3 (I still think containers and food are #1 and #2).
I concentrate on the lawn areas we use and walk on, which for us is usually the back yard lawn. Living rurally, it's okay for our front grass to go dormant and brown since the pastures around us are brown, too.
TIP: The two most important things you can do to save water when sprinkling lawns is to minimize evaporation and run-off. This also makes sure the water is going right where it's needed (I'm seeing a theme here…) - the roots of the grass.
- Water early in the morning or in the evening to lessen evaporation.
- Set and maintain your sprinklers to water only the grass and not any paths or driveways.
Using a simple sprinkler like the Circular Sprinkler with Spike Base shown makes it really easy to water just the grass.
I've always been confused about how to set sprinklers, so look for some kind of easy pull-up for 360 degree watering and collars or knobs that adjust where the sprinkler waters.
I also appreciate a water turn-off right on the sprinkler base, so there's no running back and forth to the spigot as you're setting it.
When and How to Water Lawns
The lawn you use and walk on, like our backyard, should be watered deeply once a week with a sprinkler. Once a week keeps it from turning completely brown which it works for us, but you may want to go to once every 5 days if you'd like it greener and you have no restrictions.
Making the effort to keep up with your yard and garden watering might seem like it’s a losing battle sometimes. But making it as easy as possible and having a plan will make sure you can keep everything alive through the summer so you'll be rewarded with a glorious fall.
And that’s worth it!
Have any garden watering tips? Be sure to share in the comments!
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