This week I have spent a good bit of time watering the yard and garden, basically to keep the vegetables, flowers and lawn from curling up and dying. Although most of the Pee Dee counties are not officially in a drought, it sure is dry and we are doing the rain dance. I wish I were singing “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring” instead.
While I am watering, I pay close attention to avoid splashing too much water on the foliage of tomato plants, to avoid foliar diseases like blight. I direct the water to the base of the plants. It would be much easier if I installed a soaker hose irrigation system.
Watering the lawn should be done early in the morning, when the dew is naturally on the leaves. We try not to prolong the time that leaves are wet, again to avoid disease problems.
Although some people have automatic irrigation systems, I am still watering with a sprinkler and have even designed the shape of the lawn area based on the shape of where the sprinkler hits.
The best way to determine how long to water the lawn is to set out a one-inch-deep container (a tuna can works great) and run the irrigation system or sprinkler until the container is full. The time it takes to fill the can is the amount of time you should water per week.
For more details, including how to tell if the lawn needs water, please see our fact sheet at the Clemson Extension Home and Garden Information Center on watering lawns: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/watering-lawns/.
The rest of my yard that is not lawn or vegetable garden is mulched. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch is great for retaining moisture over the root systems of perennials, ground covers, shrubs and trees.
I use longleaf pine straw around the trees and shrubs and either shortleaf pine straw or pine bark mulch between the perennials in the flower bed. Let us remember not to let the mulch get too thick, especially around the base of tree trunks. No mulch volcanoes around trees, and no black plastic mulch, please! For more on the benefits of mulch, and the virtues of the various kinds of mulches, see our fact sheet at https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/mulch/.
The best way to not have to do all this watering, though, is to select and plant drought-tolerant species. There are plenty of native and non-native ornamental plants that will thrive in our hot, humid climate. Our fact sheet on plants that tolerate drought (https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/plants-that-tolerate-drought/)
includes a list of 72 species of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, 71 species of vines, ground covers, perennials and ornamental grasses, plus 19 annual flowers.
You will notice on the fact sheet that many of the plant species recommended (for example, rosemary) have their own fact sheet, that you can go to by clicking on the name of the plant in the left-hand column. So, unless you like to water, don’t plant anything that isn’t on this list. And keep doing the rain dance!
Trish DeHond is the Home Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Clemson Extension in Darlington & Florence Counties. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.