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We know it’s temping to stop watering this time of year. It’s been a long summer of hauling hoses, sprinklers and heavy watering cans. And, since we were fortunate to have a not-so hot and dry summer, many homeowners are lulled into a false sense of security that their landscape has adequate water to take their plants into the fall and through winter. We wish this were true.
It’s easy to spot landscapes supplemented with an irrigation system – plants are still lush, ferns tall and green and the lawns are thriving. Truth is, now is as critical a time as ever to ensure your landscape is receiving adequate watering. Established plants need to set a healthy, strong foundation to pull them through fall and winter. Fall additions to the garden, such as trees, shrubs and perennials, most certainly need adequate watering to ensure their health.

Smart Watering: Last weekend, after a week of some nice rains, I poked around the gardens to discover that under the bed of epimedium the soil was bone dry. Earlier in the season, after two days of solid rain, I went to the gardens assuming planting was not an option only to discover soil that was dry. What was the reason behind this?

1) A carpet of leaves: Under the epimedium fall leaves that I had failed to completely remove had created an almost impervious water barrier. To rectify the situation, I removed the spent leves, broke up the soil where I could without damaging the roots and watered well.

2) Mulch. Oh so much mulch! This garden is often tended to by volunteers, and volunteers love to spread mulch. Unfortunately, the shredded mulch had become compacted and way too thick over the years. With a Cobrahead tool I pulled back a thick, heavy mat of compressed mulch to find soil that was bone dry. Even worse, after a bit of digging I discovered that it was also lifeless. Solution: Disposed of the mulch and turned the soil while adding pinefine amendments.

What you can do.
Fluff your mulch. If your mulch is compacted, what watering you do will most likely bead off the mulch like water off a duck’s back.
Remove spent leaves from the gardens. Leaves may harbor pests and disease as well as block air and water circulation.
Do a few test digs to take the guess work out of knowing if your soil is dry or not.
Consider installing a professional irrigation system.

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