Mulch, wetting agents and common sense will help your landscape through the heat of the summer. Last week we spoke about lawn stress and care. This week lets focus on the rest of the landscape such as your trees, shrubs and hedges, rose and flowerbeds, ornamental grasses and color spots. How to water them
Wetting agents have been available for decades. A wetting agent is a soap-like solution that when applied to the soil helps break the invisible barrier that lies on our soil’s surface. This barrier repels water, causing water-runoff. When a wetting agent is applied and watered in the barrier breaks down and the soil becomes open for water absorption. Depending on the brand, different companies call wetting agents different thing. Monterey brand is available at nurseries and garden centers. Their product is called Perc-O-Late Plus. Whichever product you choose, follow package directions for best results. If it says 2 tablespoons per gallon, and you apply 4 tablespoons, you’ll burn your plants. Keeps in mind wetting agents are for the soil beneath your landscape plants, shrubs, trees, vegetable beds, container and lawn. It is not to be applied to the plant foliage. Water once applied to work product into ground before evaporation begins. It may take a month to see results once a wetting agent has been applied. Be patient, they work!
Mulch, mulch, mulch. If all you do for your landscape this year is to mulch, you would be doing well by your yard. Micro, chunky, shredded bark, compost, straw, anything is better than letting your soil display its cracks. Exposed soil can have gallons of moisture sucked out of itself through evaporation, especially on hot days. Mulch doesn’t cost too much. Spreading it is labor intensive, but the benefits out weigh the effort.
Please folks, stop watering in the heat of the day. Pick and choose what and where irrigation is needed. Each morning as I drive my son to school I pass a house along Marsh Creek road where the homeowners are watering very established boxwood shrubs daily. This is a waste of water. Those established shrubs do not need daily irrigation. Pretty much nothing established does. It is time to pick and choose what needs water to survive the summer. Needs is the key word here. Perhaps you don’t need that annual colors spot. Maybe you water shrubs by hand rather than sprinkler. Foundation-plant areas should have their irrigation changed from sprinkler to drip irrigation. You’ll use gallons less water. Deciduous shrubs and trees can take the stress of drought, or insufficient watering. They may sacrifice some of their foliage to survive, but they usually don’t die unless they are never watered again. Ornamental grasses are also really tough, and tolerant to long sessions between watering. Roses too. Mature roses can survive with 2 gallons of water a week with slow hand watering.
We as a community water our landscapes too much, and not at the proper times. We leave our soil un-mulched, and install the wrong plants for our climate. If we are going to continue to enjoy our landscapes we need to change our approach, our care and our installations.
Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.
Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and Claycord.com. She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.