The key to proper watering

There is no doubt that the weather has been a bit on the warm and dry side recently. If you want to conserve time and water, you may be wondering which is better to water the lawn or your trees and shrubs? According to experts, during hot dry weather it is best to water your trees and shrubs.

The cool-season lawn grasses commonly grown in the region naturally slow down as temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases. In hot dry years like this, turf grass specialist suggest just letting the lawn go completely dormant since lawns can survive for 4-6 weeks without significant rainfall. In addition, watering during hot weather can cause damage to your lawn. Watering, especially frequent light watering, during hot weather encourages lawn diseases and weeds.

On the other hand, drought is very stressful to trees and shrubs. When it is really hot and dry many trees and shrubs will shed their leaves, which can kill the plants. This is especially true with newly planted trees and shrubs which are vulnerable because their root systems are not fully developed.

The best way to water your landscaping is to water slow and deep. The goal is to have the water soak into the ground and not run off. This can be accomplished with plastic drip irrigation bags that encircle the trunk of the tree. They can be quickly filled with a hose and then they slowly release the water (typically 20 gallons) over 8 to 12 hours. These bags should be filled one to two times a week.

If you only have a few trees and shrubs to water, you can just use a hose turned on to a slow trickle -but you need to monitor them and move them before the water starts running off. Another low-tech solution is to drill small holes in the bottom of plastic buckets or trash cans, place them around the trees and shrubs, and fill them with water.

If you have not been watering your trees and shrubs and they are showing signs of stress, it is not too late to start. This is true even if the plants have lost all of their leaves. As the long as the plant is alive and starts to get water the rest of the growing season it can survive and even thrive.

Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at a.lennox.barlow@gmail.com.

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