Sometimes it feels like I'm posting some sort of weather blog here, but I gotta say, we're not used to having such dry weather in June. We had almost no rain all month. (.18 inches through 6/29...wow) I had to go to Lake Michigan to get a few nice summer thunderstorms just to rinse the Seattle dry off.
Plants in my garden are still going crazy (even after the neglectful watering). I was talking to a longtime regular client about watering. She was asking about how often she should water various things in her garden. The more we talked, the more I realized there were some things to clear up. I thought I'd give my view on this issue.
We tend to try to make a blanket set of rules for all plants and all situations and this leads to a lot of over watering (and in some cases under watering too).
New plantings, whether the tag says drought tolerant or not, need regular initial watering in order to survive. We can't be starving our new plant friends now can we... So 2- 3 times a week of deep watering should be great. Now some of you out there see the clouds in the sky and then a few drops come and you think oh, cool, no need to water. The amount of rain we get in these summer sprinkles is usually very minimal and won't even fill a shot glass. Plants need more than a shot of h2O, especially new ones.
Established gardens. Ok, here's the trick on this. We can wean the older, more established plants off the need for so much water. Many of the plants that grow well here in the PNW seem to understand the natural cycle. They seem capable of drinking a lot in the winter, spring and fall and starve all summer without much of a problem. The roots go deeper in summer which seems to have the added effect of making the plant stronger over all.
My garden goes with very little water through out the Summer. Some of the older more established plants never get water except perhaps incidental runoff from the neighbor washing his grill or the cat dish getting turned over. When I plant a new shrub in the garden, I'll water it in and I might get a few others with a splash or two, but I've found that the others don't need as much water as we might think. Perhaps we have a tendency to water these established plants more than we need to. If you are going to reduce the water for your garden, do it carefully and gradually. Some plants in our climate will let you know right away that they need more. Hydrangeas for example, will sulk pretty quickly if neglected for too long. Others will take the gradual reduction and build deeper root systems. A smartly designed and maintained irrigation system can account for the variations and can be set to water more efficiently.
Containers? Yes, they need water more often than in ground plants. They are pockets of soil, usually jammed with competing root systems that can dry out pretty quickly in the sun. Containers in shady areas can go with a bit less watering, but still need some to thrive. We recommend 2-3 times a week of a good deep soaking.
Lawn? I say don't bother. Let it brown. It'll come back as soon as the first drizzle hits. But if one is very interested in a very green lawn (grass lawn) you will note that the lawns installed in deeply tilled and well amended soils that got good initial watering, don't seem to need nearly as much watering as the poorly installed lawns.
ANyway, enough said for now. Write in with your comments or questions!