Rainfall has been below normal in WNY, so keep watering

hose slowly watering plant
To deeply water your plants, let the hose run slowly over a long period of time. That will help get the water down to the roots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


by Connie Oswald Stofko

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen clouds, heard thunder and even felt a few drops of rain in my Amherst garden. (I think I counted a total of 13 drops.)

It’s not unusual to have a dry spell like this, but you need to remember to keep watering your garden.

At the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, they measured just .11 inch of rain since May 23, said meteorologist David Thomas. (I didn’t ask how many raindrops that was.) The Southtowns got 1 to 2 inches of rain, most of that in a thunderstorm one evening. Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties fared better, with 1 to 3 inches of rain.

Usually we get 6 inches of rain in all of May and June, Thomas said. We’re about halfway through June already, and they’ve recorded only 2.78 inches at the airport.

The good news is that rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Even the Northtowns and Niagara County should get rain, Thomas said.

However, it won’t be a widespread rain over the entire region; there will be clusters of rain. Some towns may get a good soaking, some towns may get a few hundredths of an inch and some towns may get nothing, so don’t forget to water your plants

And after that, we probably won’t get any rain until next week, so don’t forget to water!

Thomas doesn’t see this summer shaping up like the drought of 2016. Before that drought, the winter, spring and early summer had been dry, while this year we had wet weather from January through spring. This year, large-scale patterns suggest that we could have wetter weather in July and August.

“That remains to be seen,”  Thomas said.

When it comes to watering, I now follow the advice I got from a gardener several years ago: Water when it rains and water when it doesn’t. 

If you hear that there’s a 70 percent chance of rain and decide you don’t have to water, you may be disappointed. A 70 percent chance of rain means that when conditions are like this, 7 out of 10 times it will rain. That means that 3 out of 10 times it won’t.

And even if it does rain, will it rain in your garden, or will it rain one town away?

And even if it does rain in your garden, will be there be enough rain? Trust me, a dozen drops isn’t enough. The water has to reach the roots of the plant to be effective.

When you water, water deeply. Set your hose to low and place the hose at the base of the plant. Let it run until the water seeps down to the roots.

If you just planted the plant, remember how big your pot was. That’s where the roots are and that’s where you want your water to be. You can push your finger into the soil to see whether the soil is moist down near the roots.

When you have gotten water all the way down to the roots, move your hose to the next plant.

It may take awhile to water this way, so if you don’t have much time, water just a few plants a day. Spraying the entire garden lightly doesn’t help anything.

If you have a rain barrel, you can hook a hose up to your rain barrel. You won’t get a lot of water pressure, but that’s not needed for this kind of watering. The gentle flow you get with a hose on a rain barrel is perfect for watering plants deeply.

Give special attention to plants you have recently put in the ground or transplanted into containers. That includes newly planted grass seed or sod as well as recently planted trees.

Don’t forget to fertilize your annual flowers— some need to be fertilized every time you water.

Bonus tip: Using mulch can hold in moisture and keep weeds down. It looks good, too!

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