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What can I do to prepare now for a possible summer drought?


In the Southeast New York region, the drought of summer 1999 was devastating to many water-thirsty garden plants. Perhaps you have decided to devote more of your garden to drought-tolerant plants. These types of plants can really be the keys to gracefully weathering a sustained summer dry spell with possible water restrictions. There are many native and naturalized landscape plants that grow well under low-water conditions. Contact your local resources such as a botanical garden and cooperative extension service to help you identify the water-conserving plants that will readily grow in your area.

Additional steps include the use of mulches to reduce soil temperature and evapotranspiration rates. Mulches will also insulate plant roots from summer heat and help reduce weeds, which compete with plants for moisture. Keep in mind that fine textured organic mulches such as pine needles and shredded bark hold water better than coarse textured ones.

Now is the best time to plan and install the most effective drip irrigation system equipped with point/source tubing with emitters "punched-in" where plants are located, soaker hoses and/or moveable micro-irrigation sprinklers which gently deliver water only to the roots of your garden plants.

You also may want to reduce the amount of turf areas, as they demand such high-water use with standard sprinkler systems. Replace water demanding turf species with low to moderate-use species. Use turf grasses that may go dormant when unwatered but will green-up again when rainfall returns.

During the summer dry times, follow these water-wise principles:
- Water all plants including lawn areas early in the morning to minimize evaporation losses. Water all plants less frequently but more thoroughly.
- Remove weeds that compete for moisture and nutrients.
- Keep plants pruned and maintained to support optimum health.

Lastly, think ahead about implementing a thorough maintenance plan, and read up on environmentally friendly gardening practices. Enjoy a sound and flourishing water-wise garden this summer!

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