Watering Oklahoma’s Garden Agenda

 

Summer has arrived the last several weeks in Oklahoma and we are now dealing with the intense and grinding heat of summer.  That means watering, mulching and pest control have moved to the top of the Oklahoma gardening agenda.

Water is critical not only to the good health of your plants but to their very survival.  The rains are but a distant memory now and most of our soils have dried out and need your help to provide the moisture your plants, lawn, trees and shrubs need to perform their best.  There is a tremendous variation in the water holding capacity of different soils and in the water needs of different plants as well as the drying conditions at different places around your yard.  Plants in full sun or windy areas will dry out much faster than plants in shady or protected spaces.  Soils with lots of organic matter like sphagnum peat moss, compost or fine bark or other humus, can hold much more water and for longer than a sandy open soil.  Plants that are well established and have a deeper or more extensive root system can go longer between rains or watering.  Plants in smaller containers like hanging baskets or eight inch or ten inch diameter decorative containers will need watering more often than plants in really large decorative containers that are eighteen inches or twenty-four inch in diameter.

You can hand water with a water hose and that allows you to really observe and enjoy your plants while you water.  This gives you a chance to watch for bug or disease problems, if the wind or varmints have physically impacted your plants and to make judgment decision on which plants need water and which can wait until later.  If you hand water you should get a water breaker or nozzle to help soften the water flow to reduce erosion or washout as you water.  If you water using sprinklers you give up the option of exercising judgment on which plants to water and pretty much water everything the same within the sprinkler pattern.  You can water with a sprinkler you set at the end of the water hose or install an automatic lawn or flower bed watering system.  If you do an automatic system please make sure it has a moisture or rain sensor so you are not wasting precious water and irrigating when it is raining.

Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water and the slow, steady water penetrates into the soil with the least run off or waste.   The simplest form of drip irrigation is a soaker hose and the most sophisticated are low pressure lines with emitters spaced in a regular pattern or added to water right by your trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables.  An emitter every eight inches or twelve inches will result in a solid wet row or space emitters further apart to match a specific planting pattern.  There are emitters for half gallon, gallon, two gallon or other flow rates per hour.  A half gallon emitter left on for four hours will provide the same water to a plant as a two gallon emitter left on for one hour.

All of these watering techniques work best when you mulch your plantings, with a two or three inch layer of bark, cottonseed hulls, pine straw, cocoa hulls, pecan hulls or other natural mulch.  Mulching will often reduce watering by up to fifty percent as it cools the soil and plant roots from summer heat, reduces weed pressure and reduces soil surface evaporation.

Don’t forget to be scouting for red spider mite, bagworms, webworms and other insect pests that thrive in the summer heat.  These summer pests can explode in a matter of days if you don’t address them fairly early.

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