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Gardening with Laurie: Compost, mulch essential for moisture retention during hot, dry conditions

April 28, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 27, 2011 at 11:28 p.m.


By Laurie Garretson

As summer conditions are quickly developing, it's time to make sure all plantings are ready for the severe heat and worsening drought. Gardeners need to be very concerned about water use. Water is a precious, natural resource that cannot afford to be wasted.

The lack of rain, high winds and hot temperatures can make it hard to keep a beautiful landscape well watered. Without any significant amount of rain, the area could experience a very severe drought this summer. This does not mean we can't still have beautiful landscapes. It just means we have to make some adjustments to the way we do things. Here are some tips to help make the next several months a bit easier:

To help your soil retain moisture, add lots of compost to it. To help a compacted, heavy-type soil loosen up and become light and fluffy, add lots of compost to it.

Water effectively. Keeping your landscape looking good during a drought can be a challenge if you're not prepared. Knowing the water requirements of all your plants and lawn is important. Having plants with similar water needs planted together is best. All new plantings will require regular watering to become established and then can become tolerant to dryer conditions. Keep in mind that drought tolerant does not mean "never water," especially when it comes to container-grown plants.

During a drought period, water the soil in the evening. It increases the amount of water that is actually used by the plants. When watering during early morning hours, you will lose a large amount of water to evaporation. If overhead watering is unavoidable and it's the only way to get water to your plants, then it is best to water during the early morning hours to give the foliage a chance to dry before evening.

It is usually recommended to water one inch per week. During severe conditions you may be required to add to that amount. Deep infrequent watering will be the most beneficial.

Adding compost and lots of mulch to all your gardens is a must. As mentioned above, adding compost to soils that drain too fast will help the soil to retain moisture. For additional help keeping moisture in the soil, have all beds well mulched. Mulching will also help to keep weeds out of the soil. Weeds can rob moisture from your plants.

Do not cut your lawn short. The longer the blades of grass the longer the roots. Longer roots are better able to reach deep down to find moisture when needed. This means less watering and a lawn that's better able to withstand a drought.

May 3 will be the first day of the 2011 spring Farmers Market. The market is open every Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with fresh, local, in-season produce. Be sure to check it out.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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