Yard Care for Hot, Dry Weather

Weeks without rain can be a gardener's worst nightmare. When a hot, dry weather pattern settles in, it affects your landscape in a variety of ways. There's nothing you can do to prevent a drought, but there are some strategies you can enact to help minimize the effect it has on your yard.

Water Your Garden
It's the most obvious strategy, of course, but to stay healthy, most garden plants like about an inch of moisture per week. In most cases, it's better to apply the water weekly or every other week. It's a bit of a waste to give your plants less water more frequently: Doing so discourages the roots from growing as deeply into the soil (where it stays moist longer) as they can, and it's also inefficient as more water is lost to evaporation.

Apply Mulch
A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil when drought gardening can do wonders: It keeps the soil cooler and shields the ground from direct sun. The benefit is that moisture stays in the soil longer, where it's more available to your garden plants. Run a soaker hose underneath your mulch to maximize water savings: Water will be delivered directly to the ground (reducing evaporation) and slowly (reducing water loss to runoff). It will also keep plant foliage dry, which helps prevent many common fungal diseases.

Stop Fertilizing
If you apply fertilizers (organic or synthetic), it's helpful to stop at the onset of a drought. Fertilizers encourage plant growth; the more a plant grows, the more moisture it needs. If fertilizer salts build up in your soil because they're not naturally leaching out with rain or irrigation, they can build up and burn plant roots, causing further damage.