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Dry Weather Gardening
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Dry Weather Gardening
No water, no problem!
You can garden through a drought

In Pennsylvania, we occassionally have dry spells and even droughts. But the dry weather should not be a deterrent to your normal gardening plans. These water-wise gardening tips from the certified experts at can help you keep your yard and garden vibrant and green through this dry spell.

Set watering priorities
You may not be able to water everything, so set priorities to water the plants most vulnerable. Generally those plants, trees and shrubs that you put in the ground this spring should be first on the list. Trees and shrubs that have been established for several years should be OK without supplemental water unless the dry spell extends for several months.

Lawns with established cool weather grasses, such a blue grass and fescue, should be fine through the spring. If it is still dry as summer approaches, these grasses will go dormant in the dryness and heat and lose their lush green color, but will not die. If you choose not to water your lawn, the green will return with rain and cooler weather. If you just planted your lawn this spring, or if you reseeded bare spots, by all means water until the grass is well-established.

Mulch appropriately
A thin layer of mulch will help conserve soil moisture in beds and around trees, but don't over-do it! One to three inches of shredded bark hardwood mulch is plenty. Don't pile mulch around tree trunks, making the dreaded "mulch volcano." Too much mulch encourages root growth into the mulch layer and stops water from reaching the root zone when it rains.

Water slowly and deeply
A common mistake made by gardeners is to water just the surface of the soil with a quick pass of the sprinkling can. This may actually harm the plant by encouraging root growth near the surface where roots can quickly dry out. After watering, dig down a few inches to make sure that your water is reaching the deeper roots and encouraging deep root development. It's better to water deeply once or twice a week than shallowly everyday. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation can help you accomplish this without having to stand for hours with a hose or sprinkling can.

Water in late afternoon or early evening
Recent studies have shown that plants respond best to watering during the late afternoon or early evening when their need for water is the greatest. But don't water too late in the evening. Plant leaves should have a chance to dry before nightfall to reduce the chances of fungus or mildew diseases.

Don't waste water
Direct sprinklers carefully so that you are watering only the plants intended and not the street, the driveway and sidewalk. Soaker hoses, mini-sprinklers and drip irrigation are excellent ways to keep your plants watered very efficiently with little waste. Water is a precious resource and all the more so during dry conditions. Use it wisely!

Consider installing an irrigation system that is designed and operated to conserve water. Often, these systems can save water compared to garden hose and lawn sprinkler use. Seek the guidance or assistance of a professional landscaper, irrigation contractor or garden center professional to help you. You can find the professional nearest you at

For more information on water-wise gardening stay tuned to

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