What happened to the rain?

July 16, 2013

By Jane Garrison

For the first time in many years, we had nice, dry weather in June when the sun was at its highest and the days were the longest of the year. That means we had more early heat, and crops west of the Cascades got a big boost. We can all celebrate by consuming tons of strawberries.

Early, dry weather may be good for crops and farmers, but it could mean stress for some of your garden plants. If your plants look bad, and you wonder if water is the problem, check out the following symptoms:

  • Fruits are different sizes
  • Stunted plants

  • Wilted discolored flowers and leaves.

You can’t tell by looking at just the plant; you have to check the soil. It’s time to water when the top 3 inches to 5 inches of soil are dry. You can buy a probe or just dig down and look.

Shrubs and lawn take different amounts of water. Lawn requires more. The following may help you determine how much water you need for a healthy landscape.

If you live on the hard soils around Issaquah, during drought, water shrubs beds slowly, twice a week until they begin to puddle or run off. Planting beds should be moist to about 2 feet deep.

Lawn is more difficult if you want to keep it green. It needs to be watered to a depth of 6-8 inches each time, which means about 3-4 minutes every day. If you don’t have an automatic system, this is very difficult to do. Rather than drag hoses around every day, just try to deliver about an inch of water per week, and it will probably be able to stay green depending on soil and exposure. Otherwise, brown grass is a good thing for our water supply.

New trees and shrubs need more water than established ones. They need to be watered regularly, because the roots have not spread to take in water from a big area. Basins around new plants help retain the water near the roots, especially on sloped sites or mounds. Watch to see if water soaks in or runs off. Run-off does the plant absolutely no good.

We all need to be aware of the stresses on our water supply and ways to conserve. Consider the following:

Mulch shrub beds to reduce loss of water through evaporation.

Limit lawn areas or allow it to brown.

Use drought-tolerant species or native plants in your landscaping.

Now, go water per the above guidelines and enjoy the rest of the summer. Don’t forget to eat a big bowl of fresh strawberries. They are amazing when they are locally grown.


Jane Garrison is a local master gardener and landscape architect. She gardens in glacial till on the plateau.



Get some help

Visit master gardener clinics on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Squak Mountain Nursery and the Issaquah Farmers Market. Bring problems, samples and photos, or just stop by to visit.


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