July 2012

Three easy steps for hand watering plants

Three 5-gallon buckets equals about 1 inch of water. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

We hear all the time that plants need an 1 inch of rain every week for their overall health and to produce vegetables and flowers. But how much is that when hand watering?

Three 5-gallon buckets equals about 1 inch of water. Although you can lug the buckets around to water the plants, there’s an easier way to figure out how to hand water thirsty plants.

Time how long it takes to fill a 5-gallon bucket with water. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

1. Fill a 5 gallon bucket and time how long it takes. Be sure to use the hose or nozzle you will use to water the plants. There might be a time difference if the water comes straight from the hose or through a nozzle.

2. You can carry the bucket to the trees, shrubs or perennials that need to be watered and slowing dump the water at the base of the plant. Be sure to dump the water slowly so that the soil can soak it up.

Once you know how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket, you know how long it will take to deliver that amount of water to plants. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

3. If you don’t want to carry the bucket, you can water plants with the hose for the same amount of time it took to fill a 5 gallon bucket. For instance, if it took one minute to fill a bucket, you know that watering from the hose for one minute will deliver about 5 gallons of water. Three minutes will deliver 15 gallons, or the 1 inch needed. The 15 gallons can be delivered all at once within a week, or in two or three applications. In excessive heat and drought, consider doubling the amount of water applied each week to newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc., also offers more tips on watering, especially mature trees.


Tidy up daylilies and other perennials scorched by Indiana’s excessive heat

Hostas, even those in the shade, have been scorched by the excessive heat and drought. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In the hopes that the 100-degree days are gone for the summer, there are a few things to do in the landscape to clean up from the historic scorching.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) tend to look a bit ragged this time of year regardless of the weather. The early and mid-season blooming varieties are done and their foliage has started to turn brown. Rebloomers, such as ‘Stella d Oro’ or ‘Happy Returns’, are likely in a resting phase, and their leaves also look a bit tired.

Trim off any ugly daylily leaves. This will make the garden look tidy and less fried. Remove the stalks of spent flowers, too.

Hostas, even those in the shade, may look a bit scorched, especially if they have not been watered. You don’t have to do anything, but if you feel compelled, snip off the worst looking leaves at the base of the plants. Most  hostas bloomed early, so remove spent flower stalks, called scapes.

Cut back perennials by about half. These include coneflower (Echinacea), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), garden phlox and bee balm (Monarda). This removes spent flowers and gives plants a chance to rest a bit by reducing the foliage it has to support in hot, dry weather.

Shrubs and trees that have turned brown or lost their leaves likely will leaf out again when given adequate moisture. The leaves will be smaller. Wait until next year to remove any branches from deciduous shrubs and trees to make sure they won’t leaf out again.

Brown branches on needle evergreens can be removed because they are dead.

Hold off on fertilizing the lawn, trees, shrubs and perennials. No need to force growth. It would be better to give these plants adequate water. Continue to fertilizer annuals.