by J. Miles Graves
Branch Manager, Horticulturalist
Bluffton | Hardeeville | Sun City
The summer and its heat -- the perfect time for days on the beach, lounging at your local pool, or relaxing inside your home to cool off -- are finally upon us. While plants can’t cool themselves the way humans do, with a little help from landscapers and residents, they can “beat the heat” and survive the summer happy and healthy.
Plants naturally cool themselves through transpiration, a process similar to humans’ sweating, in which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes from water to vapor, thereby cooling the plant. One way we humans can assist plants’ transpiration is proper watering practices.
Most plants prefer infrequent deep watering as opposed to frequent light watering. This promotes deep rooting of plants which make them much more resistant to the heat and potential drought during the long summer. For example, watering two days for 20 minutes is typically much more productive and efficient than four days for ten minutes.
Monitoring irrigation systems – not meant to be a yard’s sole source of water – can make sure plants are not being overwatered or underwatered. Sprinklers should just help turf and plants “hold over” until a natural rainfall arrives to fully quench their thirst – be sure to supplement their water in dry periods. But as detrimental as drought can be to plants, overwatering can be just as harmful, if not worse. Overwatering promotes shallow roots that cannot withstand hot summer days or droughty conditions. It can also weaken plants, thereby increasing their susceptibility to insects, disease and weed infestations.
Timing is everything. Plants like to be watered right before they begin to wilt due to heat and lack of water. Since plants cannot talk to us directly, making proper observations and understanding plant preferences is key to determining when to water. The best time to water is in the early morning hours, so the leaf blades don’t stay wet overnight for a prolonged time promoting fungal and disease infection. Early morning watering also allows plants to recover from the previous day’s heat and prepares them for the next hot summer day.
So as we get ready to prepare ourselves for the long summer days, let’s make sure we don’t forget about our plants and lawns. Following these tips can help make sure that our yards are as healthy as possible going into and through the summer months, so we can sit back, relax and enjoy a green healthy landscape all summer long. I hope everybody has a great, long, and fun summer!