July is Smart Irrigation Month, which calls to mind the smart use of water, a precious resource that a lot of gardeners take for granted. Even though rainfall may be plentiful and there are no water restrictions in your community, it’s still smart to be smart about watering tasks.
- Direct water to the root zone rather than on plants. Avoid watering during the heat of the day, when evaporation is high.
- Overhead sprinklers are less efficient than those that distribute water close to the soil.
- If your community has water restrictions or you’d like to conserve the resource, prioritize your watering needs. Usually food gardens and containers come first, followed by annuals in the ground, perennial beds, shrubs and trees. A healthy lawn can usually go a month to six weeks without water.
- Make sure your irrigation system is set for the different zones in the landscape. Lawns may be irrigated two or three times a week, while trees and shrubs only need to be watered deeply every week or so.
- Keep plant growing well with applications of an all purpose plant food that's rich in natural and organic plant nutrients.
Consider selecting plants that can take the heat but continue to look good in the garden. These heat-loving, drought-tolerant plants can take the heat even with little or no rainfall or supplemental watering.
- Lantana – not only does this plant stand up to hot temperatures, it also attracts butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Good for containers or in the ground.
- Mealycup Sage/Salvia – has stalks of white, blue or bi-color flowers. Tolerates part sun.
- Moss Rose/Portulaca – has a succulent look with needle-like leaves or flat, fleshy round ones.
- Petunia –naturally trailing plants with trumpet-shaped flowers in dozens of colors, good for containers or in the ground. Hummingbirds like to visit these flowers.
- Vinca/Madagascar periwinkle – inch-wide disk-like flowers in many colors, including some with picotee edging or contrasting eyes. Tolerates part sun.
- Lavender –fragrant and delicious. Leave upright in winter. Cut back to new growth in spring when leaves start to form. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 5.
- Russian Sage – a shrubby plant best used where shorter plants can camouflage its base. Pollinators love this aromatic plant.
- Sedum – especially the late summer blooming Autumn Joy with succulent-like leaves. Monarchs and native bees enjoy this plant’s flowers.
- Threadleaf Tickseed/Coreopsis –this Eastern U.S. native’s fine, grass-like foliage adds interesting texture in a flowerbed. Popular varieties include ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Zagrebe’.
- Yarrow – pollinators like the flat-topped yarrows, which come in many colors, from pastels to paprika to gold. Long-lasting as a cut flower, too.