In the past few weeks, we have been made aware that we are once again experiencing a dry period in certain parts of our beautiful state. It is possible to save water and still have a beautiful garden. Here are some tips for making the most efficient use of the water you have.
First, many of us use soaker hoses in our gardens for both vegetables and flowers, and there are a couple ways to make them more efficient. Bury your hose under two inches of mulch; in this way, the water arrives directly at plants' roots with much less evaporation.
Don't set a timer for an automatic start to soaker hoses, because you run the risk of watering too often. Aim for two deep soakings per week. Do this by timing how long it takes for water to penetrate your soil at least six inches deep; you can check saturation levels by digging a hole with a trowel marked in inches. After you have determined the amount of time it takes for saturation, set your timer for automatic shut off, and you will never overwater.
Another way to save water is to use and reuse gray water, the water left over from everyday activities. Set a bowl in the sink to catch the runoff from washing produce, and then use it to water a container. After steaming vegetables or boiling unseasoned pasta, let the pot cool and pour the water out in your garden.
If you use a dehumidifier, when the tank is full, don't dump it down the drain; water your pots planted with flowers or herbs. And don't drain the kids' pool anywhere; scoop and pour the water in surrounding plants until the pool is light enough to drag to a garden bed.
Don't waste a drop of water; when you water a hanging basket, put another container beneath it to catch any extra water. Or grab an empty pail or bucket before doing dishes or running a bath. As you wait for the water to get hot, fill the bucket under the faucet and use the water for other tasks. If you use a window air conditioner, channel water that drips with plastic tubing to a garden bed.
When you are running sprinklers in your yard, be sure they are only on until your landscape gets the exact amount of water it needs. Measure how long it takes to get an inch of water to your yard by using a shallow can, and time your sprinkler accordingly. Depending on the heat and your soil, about one inch of water per week should be enough.
Finally, don't forget that growing reliable, heat-tolerant plants in your landscape will cut down on watering needs. Here are some annuals that thrive in dry conditions: Celosia comes in a variety of hot colors like red, yellow and magenta and blooms from summer to frost; plant it in full sun. Lantana is another popular annual that is available in white, yellow, pink, purple and bicolor blossoms, and it also blooms from summer to late fall; plant it in full sun. Sunflowers are another annual that tolerate heat and drought conditions fairly well.
There are also perennials that don't mind heat and drought: Various types of sedum have small to large clusters of blossoms in a range of colors and bloom from early summer to fall; plant them in part shade to full sun, depending on the variety. Yarrow produces flat-topped flowers in a variety of colors from late spring to early fall; they need full sun. These are just a few of the many heat and drought-tolerant plants that are available in your local garden center.
Water is a valuable commodity in Oklahoma and, using the tips above, we can all do our part to use water efficiently in our landscapes.