Gardening Tips: Summer Watering

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Water faucet (CBS)

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By Lisa Hilgenberg

Plants in the garden need a continuous supply of moisture to grow well when weather is hot and dry.

I’m Lisa Hilgenberg from the Chicago Botanic Garden with your summer watering tips.

Established trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables, need 1 inch of water each week. Watching the weather and investing in a rain gauge will help determine whether Mother Nature has provided enough rain or if you’ll need to supply supplemental moisture to keep your plants growing vigorously.

Monitor soil moisture around trees and shrubs by digging several inches underneath the surface of the soil with a hand trowel to determine if the soil is sticky or crumbly and friable in need of water. Nutrient rich soils high in organic matter act as a sponge helping to retain moisture. Mulching underneath plants adds organic matter while helping limit evaporation and keeping roots and soil cool.

Water deeply and thoroughly, not daily. Frequent, shallow watering causes plants to produce shallow roots that cannot survive the heat and dry conditions of mid-summer months. Watering deeply and infrequently causes plant roots to grow deeply into the soil in search of the water, resulting in deeply rooted, more drought resistant plants.

Avoid overhead sprinklers that wet foliage especially when watering roses and vegetable gardens.

Irrigating early in the morning allows turf grass to dry out before nightfall avoiding disease problems.


Lisa Hilgenberg is the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Horticulturist. She teaches classes for the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden and mentors interns from the Garden’s urban agriculture programs in the summer. Lisa draws on a rich family farming tradition, having spent many summers on her grandparents’ farms in Iowa and Minnesota. You can follow Lisa on Twitter @hilgenberg8.

Want more gardening tips?  You can read other online articles or listen to previous podcast episodes from WBBM Newsradio’s Gardening Tips segment.
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