Watering, weeding for a better garden

Summer has just started and water is an issue in many places in the province as the rain has been non-existent or scattered.

Summer has just started and water is an issue in many places in the province as the rain has been non-existent or scattered.

Combine this with wind and the moisture levels in the soil are very low.

For many it means watering their yard and garden more often. If not done properly, it becomes and expensive and time consuming task.

Recently planted plants with small roots systems rely more on rain and watering than do plants with extensive root systems.

New plants can only access the moisture that is available in the soil close to the plant. If the moisture is not available the plants suffer, wilt and die.

This group includes any plant that was planted or seeded this season. Therefore it is important to supply extra water to newly planted annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, vegetables and grass.

Giving the plants approximately an inch, (three cm) of water a week is usually enough moisture to keep the plants alive.

Watering in the cool evening or early morning ensures that more moisture reaches the ground before it evaporates.

Use adjustable sprinklers that enable the water to cover the gardens not the sidewalk or road.

Placing a water gauge in the range of the sprinkler is a great way to determine how much water has reached the garden.

Always stop the sprinkler before water begins to puddle and lie on the soil surface. Water that sits on the surface forms a crust; once it has dried up it is harder for moisture to penetrate that area.

Likewise, when water pounds the soil from a heavy rain or a heavy flowing sprinkler a similar crust is formed. This crust must by broken by shallow cultivation to  ensure that the soil will absorb more moisture.

In times of drought, conserve water by not watering the lawn which will go dormant and turn brown.

While brown lawns do not look wonderful, they will not die. Once it rains the lawn will once again turn green and lush.

At time it appears futile to water trees and shrubs as they need more moisture than a hose can provide.

To be effective to place a low flowing sprinkler along the edge of the plants dripline, outmost branches. There are more roots to absorb moisture in this area than around the trunk.

Placing mulch around plants will also help conserve moisture. For best results, make sure the ground is wet before the mulch is put in place.

Mulch is any material that is placed around plants to keep down weeds and keep in moisture. Woodchips, paper, rugs, grass clippings, compost and peatmoss work great and are readily available.

Weeds tend to ignore the lack of moisture and thrive. Take the time to remove the weeds before they flower and form seed heads. Once the seeds are formed, the weeds should not be placed in the compost but in the garbage.

Very few compost piles become hot enough to kill weed seeds. Keeping the weed seeds out of the garden ensures that there are fewer weeds to pull the next season. Gardens that are kept seed-free for a number of years have fewer weeds and require less maintence.

Deadheading perennials before the seeds mature keeps the number of volunteer plants to a minimum. Once again this helps by eliminating extra weeding.

With many plants it also ensures that they produce a second flush of blooms.

Keeping up with the watering and weeding will make for a better garden.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in RockyMountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com.

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