It’s been a hot summer with dry conditions throughout Colorado.
In most years along the Front Range, major storm systems often contribute to most of the precipitation that falls each year. More than half of Colorado’s total annual precipitation occurs during 20% of the days during which that precipitation falls. The other half comes from the remaining 80% of days when it rains, snows, or hails.
Translation? The difference between a very wet and a very dry year comes down to the presence (or absence) of just a few major storm systems. Unfortunately, Colorado has yet to see a major storm system this year.
Historical (1890-2000) moisture periods along the Front Range:
South Platte, Upper Basin (Ft. Collins area): Wet Dec.-Apr., Dry June and again in Aug.-Oct.
South Platte, Lower Basin (Denver area): Dry Nov.-Feb., Wet Apr.-Jul.
This summer’s relentless heat has challenged many landscapes along the Front Range. Everything dries out faster when it’s hot: flowers and vegetables, young trees and shrubs, and especially lawns.
During these periods of high temperatures and low moisture, don’t wait until the soil is bone-dry and cracked to water. Find ways to continuously give your lawn and plants the water they need to stay healthy and strong.
Consistent watering helps plants deal with the stress of high temperatures, especially when there’s no rain in sight. And remember, it’s most efficient to water early in the day to help avoid moisture loss due to evaporation.
Repeated wilting and re-hydrating is detrimental to most plants and lawns. One of the biggest challenges is trying to maintain a relatively steady supply of moisture to the soil. This is not only to keep plants looking their best, but also to promote continued health and growth so plants can cope with the stress of summer diseases and insects.
Any plants you have growing in containers (flowers, herbs, vegetables) will dry out more rapidly than if they were in the ground. Of course the amount of water you use will depend both on the size of the container and what you are growing in them.
But frequent watering poses a problem as well. It leaches nutrients through the soil. This means that supplemental fertilization of your plants is very beneficial during hot summer months.
Another tip to help beat the heat is to spread several inches of mulch in your garden and around trees and shrubs to help insulate the soil, keeping roots from getting too hot and dry. This practice also cuts down on surface evaporation of moisture from the soil.
Supplemental watering or “Recharge” at the base of your trees and shrubs during hot dry weather, will thoroughly soak their roots for plant health. It also helps keep our tree canopy full and lush – providing shade on the hottest of days.
Water gardens early in the day when it’s cooler and less windy. Watering in the heat of the day won’t hurt the plants (it actually cools them off), but it’s a far less efficient use of water as much of it will evaporate before it ever reaches the roots. Avoid getting plants wet late in the day unless it’s the only possible time you can water them. If they don’t dry before sundown, they’ll stay wet all night and be more susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases.
Water lawns thoroughly once a week or perhaps a little more frequently in extreme heat, to yield deeper roots and healthier grass. Sometimes irrigation systems are set to water a relatively short period of time daily or every other day. Light watering encourages shallow root growth, which leaves the grass more vulnerable to heat and drought damage, particularly if you’re unable to faithfully maintain a frequent watering schedule. This is a real possibility as municipalities and water districts often declare water restrictions in late summer. Longer watering times, more infrequently, are much more beneficial for your lawn.
As we move into the winter months, services like Recharge and anti-desiccant spraying will help to keep your plants healthy and able to rebound more quickly next spring (an anti-desiccant inhibits the loss of moisture).
As we wait for Mother Nature to provide some much needed precipitation, remember, it’s hot out there! Your landscape deserves a little attention before the dormant season begins.