Gardners know that every growing season is different. Last spring was really wet. My lawn looked great. AND, I had to work over time to prevent botrytis fungus from killing several peonies.
The weather this year is shaping up to be quite different than last year's. Everyone knows spring sprang early. Everything in the garden is ahead of schedule. Tree peonies that normally start blooming on Mother's Day (the second Sunday of May) are showing color. It is only April 9th and I've got rose buds the size of marbles!
An unseasonably warm spring day is a delight, but we gardeners have noticed something more ominous: it is really DRY. It isn't just that we had no snow to melt and soak in, but rainfall has been half of what is normal for us. Last week's drizzle was just a tease. As I write this (on Monday), I am hoping the skies open on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
If you look closely our lawns and perennials are just now starting to show small signs of stress. Before we reach for our watering cans, here are a couple of thoughts about watering during dry years.
1-When you water you lose a lot of water to evaporation. You can minimize this by watering on cool, quiet nights rather than on hot, sunny, windy days.
2-A single deep watering is better than daily shallow waterings. Numerous shallow waterings encourage diseases, particularly molds and mildews. A deep watering will get the water beneath the surface, below the mulch, where the water can't evaporate and can do some good.
3-I've even been known to water on a rainy day, especially when I'm not expecting much rain. My neighbors already think I'm crazy and I figure I am minimizing evaporation and giving my plants the deep soaking they crave.
4-Hot, dry weather will make grass go dormant. Dormant grass may not have much, if any green, but it is not dead. You may not like the look, but it will spring back to life when the weather cools and the rains come.
5-New plants need regular watering to help them get established. One rule of thumb says: once a day for a week and a once a week for a month. In drier weather, new plants may require more. That said...
6-I remember during the last drought (when New Jersey put restrictions on using water in the garden, except for new plants) I almost killed a plant by over watering it. When my attentive daily waterings did not achieve the desired result I finally looked it up and learned that it liked to keep its feet dry. Ooops! But also a lesson because...
7-A time of drought is a time to evaluate your garden. If you are watering a lot, consider planting native species (always a good idea) that can survive an occasional dry year or two.
This may be a dry year. If it is, the upside is that the peonies will be safe from botrytis!