Here in Guelph, the transition from summer to fall is a beautiful process to behold. Our landscapes shift from the neon colour palettes of summer to an array of rich, warm tones. However, before the maples have reached peak fall colour, there’s that odd transitional period that doesn’t quite feel like summer and doesn’t quite feel like fall. It’s easy to get caught in the inertia and carry on watering the way we did in July, but the changing seasons call for changing routines. Here’s your guide to watering in late summer.
Late Summer Watering Schedule
Some outdoor water restrictions are happening in Guelph right now that demand a certain degree of planning around. Right now the city is permitting outdoor water use every second day, between either 7-9 a.m. or 7-9 p.m. That may not seem like a broad window, but it should be plenty of time to get your watering done.
Perennials should get a good soak on watering days, though sometimes you may be able to skip one. It’s better to give your perennials one or two big drinks per week than to give them a little sip every day. This helps the roots penetrate deeper into the soil, which makes for a hardier plant. Depending on the size of the plants that need watering, running the hose for 30 minutes to an hour should be enough.
Trees are some of the most overlooked plants in the landscape when it comes to watering. Trees need 7-10 gallons of water every week. They respond much better to one or two deep drinks during the week rather than a half-hour under the sprinkler every evening.
Evergreens are easy to miss when you’re watering your trees, but it’s especially important to make sure they get their weekly fix. They have a tough-looking exterior, but they’re vulnerable to winter burn and desiccation when dehydrated. They keep that lovely green colour through the winter by storing moisture in the warmer months, so now’s the time to help them stock up!
Shrubs also need to get enough water to survive and recover from the winter. Hydrangeas, for instance, really appreciate a deep weekly drink—not surprising, considering their name comes from the Greek word “hydra”, which means water. Once they’re well-established, they’re quite drought-tolerant, but it takes a few years to get there. Until then, newly planted hydrangeas (and for that matter, any other new shrubs) will need a little extra TLC from your H2O.
Keep watering trees, perennials, and shrubs until mid-November.
But Tanya, all my neighbours stop watering in October, you might be thinking. Won’t I look like a little silly holding out a hose while everyone else is doing their Christmas shopping?
We’ll see who looks silly in the spring when your garden springs to life while the other yards are still a brown mess!
Potted annuals still have a fair amount of life in them, so don’t forget those, too! With the cooler temperatures, they probably won’t need water every day, but you should still check anyway. Feel under the soil surface to check how damp the soil is. A depth of 2 inches (for small pots) or up to 6 inches (for large containers) should be deep enough to tell you if the soil can wait for its next drink.
How Often Should Grass be Watered in the Summer?
Don’t forget that grass has different water needs than other plants. As long as you’re following the local water restriction schedule, you can water your lawn throughout the week. Letting the sprinkler run for about half an hour in the morning or evening on watering days should be more than enough to keep your lawn lush and winter-ready.
Late Summer Watering Tips
While watering, keep in mind the possibility that not all areas of your property may retain water at the same rate. The Guelph area has a ribbon of gravel running through it, which—as you can imagine—doesn’t retain water so well.
We also have a lot of clay soil, which has a different problem. It retains water once you get it wet, but it takes a lot of water to wet it. Take the soil types in your yard into account when irrigating the plants around your landscape.
With the soil conditions we have, plus the water restrictions in place, I really can’t emphasize this enough: use mulch! It’s so important for trapping moisture in the soil. Mulching significantly extends the amount of time it takes for the soil, and therefore the plant, to dry out. It’s cheap! It’s pretty! It saves you time! Just do it!
If I can leave you with a final thought, remember that proper planting makes a huge difference in how much water your landscape consumes. Use lots of organic matter for planting. Compost has excellent water retention and is filled with nutrients. We carry high-quality compost and mulches at our garden centre in Guelph. Stock up at Royal City Nursery—your landscape (and your water bill!) will thank you.