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Water management during dry weather & Cottage Garden seminar

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Mulching conserves water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be lost through evaporation. A two to three inch layer of mulch will help hold the water so plants can use it. Try to apply mulch all the way around the plants out to the end of the branches or beyond, if possible.

Even though our average annual rainfall is around sixty-two inches per year, we don’t always receive rain exactly when we need it. There are times when we need to apply additional water. During dry weather, implement the following water management practices to improve the water efficiency of your landscape.

Mulching conserves water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be lost through evaporation. A two to three inch layer of mulch will help hold the water so plants can use it. Try to apply mulch all the way around the plants out to the end of the branches or beyond, if possible.

When watering, a thorough soaking to wet the soil to a depth of six to eight inches is better for plants than light frequent watering. Three to five gallons of water applied to one spot under the canopy of trees or shrubs should thoroughly wet the root zone in that location. During dry periods, twenty-five percent of the root system, when watered thoroughly, can absorb all the water a plant requires at any given time.

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In watering lawns, apply one to two inches of water per week when we’re not getting rain. Although most sprinklers have irrigation rates of ¼ inch per hour, some may apply up to one inch per hour. Measure your irrigation rate and uniformity by placing several open-top containers of the same size under the sprinkler to see how long it takes to apply 1 inch of water.

An efficient lawn irrigation program should not begin until the grass shows signs of moisture stress. Symptoms include a dull, bluish-green color and leaf blades folding. The most efficient time to irrigate is between sunset and sunrise because of less evaporation, less wind and lower temperatures. Early morning is the next most effective time to irrigate while midday is the least efficient.

Avoid fertilizing drought-stressed plants. Fertilizers, being chemical salts, will dehydrate roots when water is in short supply. If you need to apply a pesticide, make certain the plant is not wilted at the time and spray during early morning or late afternoon. Avoid unnecessary pruning of plants during drought. Pruning encourages new growth which has a high demand for water.

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You may be interested attending in a program titled Cottage Gardening being presented on Wednesday, May 16 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Extension Annex located at 127 NW Hollywood Blvd. in Fort Walton Beach. Master Gardener Karen Kirk-Williams will share info on how to create and maintain a cottage garden in Northwest Florida.

A mini plant sale for attendees will be conducted following the program.

To register for this free seminar, please call (850) 689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com

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