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February 16, 2013

How to effectively water during a drought

NORMAN — I hate to dwell on doom and gloom, but the drought conditions and careless watering I have observed have made conservation one of my missions in life.

Most of our available moisture is only in the top 4 inches of soil, and at 16 and 32 inches, there is barely any water. At this point, our area of Oklahoma needs 24-28 inches of rain in the next six months to relieve the drought altogether.

In addition, most of Oklahoma is classified as a D3 and D4 status, according to the U.S. Drought monitor. These designations stand for extreme and exceptional drought, the highest drought levels possible. These stats are sobering going into the hot, summer season.

We have already seen death of mature trees and large shrubs, and the drought is projected to last another three to five years. What can you do?

This time of year, you should only be watering mature trees and shrubs, no lawns, no gardens, nothing that isn’t actively growing right now. Shrubs and newly planted trees need 1 to 2 inches of water every few weeks. Mature trees can take 1 to 3 inches of water, from a slowly running hose, at the dripline. Water mature trees every month or two.

In the next couple months, as lawns and gardens begin to wake up and be planted, water no more than 1 inch per week in one application. So pick a day, apply your water and be done. This goes for annuals, perennials, vegetables and lawns. Watering more than this will create more dependent, shallow root systems.

Shallow root systems will not survive the drought, unless you are responsible for all the water the plants receive. To measure when your watering system reaches the 1-inch amount, use a tuna can.

Time how long it takes to fill it up, then you have a system in place to apply the necessary water.

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