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Help Your Lawn and Garden Through a Heat Wave

It can be tough to keep your lawn green and your garden blooming in this kind of heat.

But master gardener William Moss has help. On "The Early Show," he shared how you can save your green spaces:

Get Your Lawn and Garden Through a Heat Wave

Summer is barely at the midway point and the heat has been stifling for man and plant alike. Many gardens and lawns have wilted and shriveled. But even for those unfortunate gardeners, there is still time to have beautiful summer landscapes with the right plants and techniques.

Drought tolerant plants make summer gardening easier, even in your lawn. Most lawns are a mixture of grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass. That's a cool-season grass that requires one to two inches of water a week and regular fertilization to keep a green lush look. Of course, all that watering and fertilizing means you'll be doing a lot of mowing to maintain a neat turf. But there are a couple alternatives for the laid-back gardener.

The first is to let your lawn go dormant. Rather than fight against nature, let cool-season grasses do what they naturally do and fade away in the summer heat. The lawn will look brown and dead, but it will only be brown and resting. As soon as cooler temps and rainfall return in September the lawn will green up again. The second option is to plant a lawn of buffalo grass. Buffalo grass is a native warm-season grass that is naturally green and growing in the hot summer months. It can thrive on a third of the water and fertilizer of Kentucky bluegrass. In fact many people do not water their buffalo grass lawns at all. It's great for communities with summer water restrictions that still want green lawns.

The downside of a warm-season grass lawn is that during the cooler months it goes dormant. Having dormant lawns in the summer or winter is simply not an option for many people. So most of us grow cool season lawns that require extra watering, fertilizing, and mowing when it gets hot. That's just the burden of a year-round green turf.

Fortunately, the landscape is a little easier than the lawn to keep beautiful through the heat. Plant selection is the key (check Some Like It Hot). There are plenty of drought tolerant shrubs, perennials, and annuals on the market. Native prairie plants are accustomed to summer heat. Mediterranean herbs, like thyme and marjoram, also thrive in hot, dry conditions.

The veggie garden is a little different. All crops will require regular watering to produce well. If your veggie garden has already been toasted by the heat, all hope is not lost. You still have time to plant beans this year and get a crop. For hot dry weather select cowpeas, black-eyed peas, yard-long beans, and tepary beans. These tough plants will fruit with more heat and less water than most other crops.

But unless you have well-established, drought tolerant plants you are going to have to water regularly; and during a heat wave proper irrigation of your lawn and garden is crucial. Below are some tips; for more info check out Summer Watering.

1. Lawns and gardens need about two inches per week during the height of summer.
2. Water early (near dawn) to reduce water loss through evaporation.
3. Water thoroughly and deeply. Soak the ground to a depth of six inches.
4. Don't water lawns and landscapes every day. If you water deeply and thoroughly, you won't have to. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
Containers (especially hanging baskets and window boxes) are the exception and may require daily soakings.

Of course, there are a few horticultural tips and techniques can help landscapes and containers beat the heat. Apply a 2" layer of mulch around plants to help the soil stay moist. Compost makes excellent mulch and also improves the soil. Remove weeds as soon as you have a chance. Weeds take water and nutrients away from your plants. Reduce fertilizer use during a heat wave. Fertilized plants require more water than normal. Unless you plan to water more frequently, cut back on the fertilizer.

Finally, for vacation watering the best thing is to have a good neighbor or friend. Next best is to use timers with soaker hoses and/or sprinklers. And don't forget to do a rain dance!

Remember that heat waves are temporary. Keep your gardens healthy through the heat and they'll reward you with colorful flowers and bountiful crops.

Get Out and Grow!



For more information on how to help your garden beat the heat, visit William Moss' website here.
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