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Three Watering Tips to Help Your Garden Survive August

Late summer's unrelenting heat can force plants out of the game early (not to mention the humans tending them). But you don't have to watch helplessly as the fruits of your labor wither. With a few smart tweaks to your technique, you and your garden can both keep your cool.

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Spray smart. Remember, it’s better to water deeper and less often than quickly every day. This strategy helps deliver moisture to the roots, where it’s needed most. Instead of standing around in the heat and spraying for hours, invest in a timer that links to an automatic system and a flow regulator, and select the right hose for the right planting. Once it’s all set up, your garden will practically water itself.

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Gear up. Knowing what tools are available -- and how to use them -- will help reveal the right option for you. A standard garden hose is best for container and window-box plants, which may need frequent soaks in high heat. Its direct application can also aid plants with signs of severe stress, such as wilting or leaf drop. A soaker hose is best for covering larger areas, like a perennial border or vegetable garden. Made of a thick, porous material, the hose slowly but thoroughly moistens crowded flower beds dotted with annuals and perennials up to 18 inches apart (for loam or clay soil, up to two feet). For trees and shrubs, use a drip line. The most effective way to reach the deep roots of large plants is a system of tubes and emitters set on a timer. This lets you target each plant efficiently without wasting water on the plantless areas.

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Photography by: SUSIE CUSHNER

Time your waterings right. Plants lose moisture through their leaves, so when temperatures climb, they can suffer from a serious water deficit. Sidestep this problem by knowing when and how much to give different plant types. Both annuals and perennials should be watered in early morning, for a total of one to two inches each week. You can do your vegetables then too, but they need less water -- just an inch every five to seven days. Trees and shrubs, on the other hand, should be watered in the evening or at night, and can take up to three inches a week without getting waterlogged. (To measure how much your irrigation system releases in one hour, bury an empty tuna can underneath the running hose, and see how many inches of water accrue in that time.)

 

What late-summer gardening techniques work for you?