Caring for your garden and landscape is challenging, which can be made more difficult by dry and unforgiving weather. Different plants require different levels of watering, and hot, windy environments require additional consideration when meeting hydration needs. Wind has a drying effect on plants, which can further be exacerbated in climates with low humidity. New Mexico experienced a drier than usual winter and is expecting a hotter than normal summer, which will greatly impact our vegetation. Whether you are growing a vegetable garden, have a couple of trees on your property, or are maintaining minimal landscaping, it is important to be aware of your water needs during our desert drought.
Water beyond the drip line of the tree. The dripline is the area directly located under the outer circumference of the tree branches. When the tree canopy gets wet, any excess is shed to the ground along this dripline, much like an umbrella. Watering, fertilizing, and mulching at the base of a tree does not provide the nourishment it needs because roots grow 1.5 to 4 times beyond the canopy. In heavy clay soil, roots are pushed even further horizontally and might be found 5 or more times wider than the dripline.
Make sure moisture reaches 12 to 18 inches deep. About 90% of tree roots are in the top 12 inches of soil. Instead of digging to verify watering depth, you can use a soil probe to ensure that the moisture has reached at least 12 to 18 inches.
Look for signs of drought stress on your trees, shrubs and perennials. Leaves suffering from drought stress might wilt, curl, or turn yellow. On trees and shrubs, look for scorching, brown edges or browning between veins. On evergreens, needles might turn yellow, red, purple, or brown. Drought stress might not cause the instantaneous death of a tree, but it weakens the overall health over time.
Mulch to retain moisture. Layer up to 4 inches of organic mulch to retain moisture between watering. Bark mulch the preferred choice of mulch at Desert Rose. Always remember to pull mulch away from the base of a tree or shrub as this helps to prevent rot.
Maintain proper pruning. Remove any broken, dead, or disease-infested branches from your trees and shrubs as they can cause additional stress on the overall health of the tree/shrub.
Keep an eye out for other problems. While it’s important to watch out for problems such as insects and disease throughout the whole season, special attention should be given during periods of drought. Plants that are stressed by drought are much more susceptible to pests and disease. In the event of an insect or disease problem, the plant may need to be pruned or completely removed.
If you have a lawn other than a native lawn (Blue gramma or Buffalo grass) you might want to follow these guidelines:
To encourage deeper roots, mow your lawn using a higher setting on your lawn mower and water deeply but infrequently.
Aerate and de-thatch to improve water penetration. Thatch can be a thick or thin layer of living and dead grass shoots, stems, and roots that forms between the green grass blades and the soil surface. This can be beneficial, acting like a pre-formed mulch, but when too thick it can harbor diseases and pests, which is why it is important to de-thatch regularly.
Plant lawn grasses that are well-adapted to your area and planting site. For more information about plants that do well in your local zone, give Desert Rose a call.
Water in the morning (preferably on days with little to no wind) to reduce evaporation.
Knowing your landscape’s watering needs can help keep your property looking clean and maintain the health of your plants. It can also reduce fire hazards, which are increased during times of drought. Additionally, monitoring your watering habits (like checking lines for leaks and using timers on watering systems) will help minimize your environmental impact during heavy demands for water. By following the steps above and contacting your local landscaping experts with additional questions, you too can keep a healthy property during hot summers.