I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to save my yard, landscaping and trees from the summer drought we are having (July 2012) and I thought I would share what has been working and not working so far.
We had an early spring this year and yet very little rain. This has been a much larger issue for farmers in the Midwest but as an average homeowner I’m not happy about the weather either.
We have tried several ways of keeping our yard alive and green and these are the results.
1. Underground sprinkling system. We bought the house knowing it had a sprinkling system and then didn’t use it for 2 years. By chance, we decided to fork over a lot of $ to have it hooked up this year and then paid again for the control box to be replaced. After all that how well does it work? Eh, not great. Its a lot of money for spraying a lot of water into the air. We still get brown spots where there are gaps in the area sprayed, and I battle certain spray nozzles that soak the roses when the wind blows, therefore defoliating them with black-spot. I don’t recommend this option if you don’t happen to have one installed in the yard already. I think there are better options out there.
2. Soak hoses. We decided early on to invest in some really long soaker hoses. The kind that have permeable membranes rather than the ones that spray in several directions like a sprinkler. We wound them around the landscaping in the front, the roses in the back and the perennials at the base of our lot. We then covered them with mulch and you can’t see anything there at all.
The key to using soaker hoses is to use a splitter connector at the faucet. (we got ours at Meijer, they come with 2 or 4 connections) This way you can have the soak hose and regular hose connected at all times and there are switches on both ends of the splitter so they can run at the same time or individually. We also leave the soak hose at the base of the lot 365 days a year and just run a regular hose out to it across the lawn when we need to water.
We have come home many times and just switched on the soak hoses around the landscaping and then went on with other things while they ran for 2-3 hours. Plants like hydrangeas and ferns really need this because their roots are very shallow. Also, if your trees are less than 5 years old they probably have shallow roots and can’t reach a reliable water source yet. Help them out with a soak hose in your landscaping around the tree drip line or a regular watering.
If you’re really tech savvy you can buy a programmable electric control box for your hose system/network and set them to run on a schedule. You can even have small connectors from the soak hose set up to water pots individually. We’re not that clever and we just turn them on and off as needed.
3. The good old rotating/oscillating sprinkler. These are still the simplest and best solution for watering a large area without wasting water. The water spray is heavier so less evaporates, you control when its on and off and where you are watering. Yes you do have to go move it every hour or so, but if it isn’t a drought you don’t have to do this every week. They waste a lot less water than in ground sprinkling systems. Remember that trees need water too. If you have some shade in your yard remember to water there even if its green since the trees need water in the heat. If your leaves are turning brown and falling off it is dangerously dry and needs more water. Don’t let it get that far. You can use a splitter at the spigot to run 2 hoses with sprinklers at the same time if you have a small parkway space to water and don’t want to be up all night.
4. Succulents. I experimented with more succulents in pots on our deck this summer because I thought they looked pretty cool. What I found was that they are perfect for a drought because they’re from the dry southwest. I have some other pots with geraniums and coleus but they’re covered by the front porch most of the day and not in full sun. The succulents are basically cacti without thorns and they are the only things surviving without water this summer in the hot 100+ degree Chicago heat.