Ah yes, that last breezy week of spring in Arizona can lull you into thinking that, for a moment, we'll have a cool summer. This is hard news to break, but you're only kidding yourself. Summer is almost here and due to the high temperatures, you'll likely want to revisit your watering schedule.
It is actually possible to overwater in the summer months, and you certainly don't want to waste water.... But you don't want dying crops either. Here are 5 tips to better watering this summer.
When to Water Start watering at night or early mornings when it's coolest. Your iPhone can help you here, but that's usually between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. This schedule helps to avoid losing water due to evaporation and wind. If you notice rot, try watering closer to daylight hours. Consider purchasing or using a probe to measure the moisture and Ph of the soil a few inches down. If your garden is particularly shady, check for signs of rot, or even mushrooms in a well watered garden.
Observe The Arizona Department of Water Services advises you to "Observe plants regularly for signs of water stress such as wilted, curled or drooping leaves; yellowing or drop-off of older leaves; or dead stems or branches. Signs of excess water include brittle leaves remaining on the plant; wilted shoot tips; soft, smelly tissue; and the presence of algae or mushrooms." In short, try differing amounts and then observe how different plants react. What might be the perfect amount for one plant, might be different for others, so if you water on a timer, create zones accordingly and "read your leaves."
Control Where the Water Goes Avoid sprinkling tree and shrub leaves with water. There's lots of discourse concerning why but some say, salts in the water can damage the foliage and sunlight with water on the leaves can burn leaves. Lower leaves who get "splatter" will often turn yellow and a few of those are ok, but any more than that, or splatter on your vegetables will cause problems. For all of these reasons, ground level watering systems work best. If your home has city irrigation, try forming small mounds and channels to help water shrubs and crops.
Don't Water Lightly Once most plants are established, don't just give them a daily sprinkling. The roots won't look deep if you're only watering the top part of the soil. Deep, less frequent watering is best. Find a schedule that works. This might mean that in the summer, you water deeply 6 times a week, including days when watering twice a day is needed. Be sure to hand water transplants and seedlings.
Go Shopping If you're watering via hand or a soaker hose, consider buying a filter for the hose to reduce the amount of chlorine your plants get from the water. Many brands are available, we recommend the "Body, mind and soil" brand. In addition, you can buy shade cloth to help ensure the soil doesn't dry up as quickly. If you're worrying about soil quality, now is the time to mix in some nutrient rich soil and maybe even utilize mulch.