Want to water less often? Try using mulch

compost around perennials
I put newspaper down first to try to smother the weeds, then layer on my mulch. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Have you gotten any rain lately? If so, lucky you!

I’ve been hearing forecasts of thunderstorms, and I happily anticipated having my rain barrels refilled. But we got only lightning. There was barely enough rain to dampen the porch– and the areas under the plastic lawn chairs stayed dry!

We’re significantly below average for precipitation, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. The last summer that was comparable to this was 2002.

Rain falling in Western New York this season is being measured in hundredths of an inch. The light showers bring so little moisture that the water evaporates before it can get down to the roots of our plants, he said.

The dry weather means more work and expense for farmers, and if gardeners aren’t watering enough, plants are definitely showing the effects.

Farfaglia offered some tips on helping gardeners deal with the dry weather.

To be efficient, don’t use a sprinkler. If you use a sprinkler, especially on windy days or days with low humidity, you’ll lose a lot of water to evaporation.

It’s much more efficient to hand water, setting your hose on low and aiming the water near the base of the plant. Water deeply. Soaker hoses are good, too. See more details on watering deeply in a previous article.

It’s also best to water early in the morning, Farfaglia said. You won’t lose as much water to evaporation as you will later in the day.

Watering after the sun goes down isn’t as good because it can promote disease, he said, but it’s okay to water at night once in awhile.

Don’t forget about mulching around your plant. While many of us use mulch to keep down weeds or just make the garden look neater, it also has the benefit of holding water in the soil, Farfaglia noted. It’s not too late to mulch.

Anything that slows down water loss is good because your plant won’t be under drought stress as often, he said. And you won’t have to water as often.

I’ll add one more tip of my own. Try to walk around your yard once a day looking carefully at each plant.

Although I have spent time every day watering my plants, I guess I got distracted by other plants that were currently in bloom and  overlooked a shrub that was finished blooming. That mock orange is one of my favorites because it gets such fragrant flowers, but I was disappointed to see it had wilted and shriveled leaves.

Tour your gardens carefully to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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3 Comments on “Want to water less often? Try using mulch

  1. Hi Connie, in my chilli plants I have lots of chilli but they are all curly & even the leaves are curly, what can I do please advice. Thank you, best regards. Tanjila

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