(BPT) - Most of us have heard the rhyme "April showers bring May flowers." While April has traditionally been a rainy period, giving way to the start of spring growth and colors, this coming season also could bring stifling heat that scorches landscapes or results in on-going water shortages. After more than two-thirds of the country experienced drought-like conditions in 2012, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, homeowners everywhere are making preparations for yet another year of extreme heat and a lack of precipitation. This season, experts from Pennington Seed de-stress lawn and garden care with seven quick tips that will help reduce your outdoor water consumption, while keeping your landscapes lush, healthy and vibrant:
1. Drought-condition plants: Plants can be conditioned for dry weather starting at the beginning of the spring season with a few changes in your irrigation schedule. As part of ongoing maintenance, decrease the frequency of watering and increase the amount of water penetration to encourage deeper rooting. Deeper roots will be more drought-tolerant. That said, it's important to remember that more watering is needed in the early stages of seed development, including germination and establishment.
2. Don't be overly reactive: Lawns tend to be overwatered, often with entire lawns being watered to avoid a few dry spots. Overwatering can cause numerous problems, including: shallow root systems; increased disease, weed or insect infestations; reduced drought tolerance; and increased thatch and excessive growth. A lawn does not need water until the color falls by 50 percent, at which time only one inch of water should be added.
3. Select water-efficient plants: By utilizing grass seed that requires less water, lawns are more resilient during periods of drought and easier to maintain (e.g. reduced time, energy and resources). Consider a pure-bred, drought-tolerant seed, like Pennington Smart Seed, which stays green for up to three weeks without water and requires 30 percent less water year after year versus ordinary seed. The varieties in every bag were developed to help homeowners establish fuller, healthier and greener lawns, while efficiently using natural resources.
4. Install water-saving systems: Install a drip irrigation system around trees and shrubs in your landscape to improve water efficiency. Drip irrigation applies water only when needed, minimizing water loss due to evaporation and preventing moisture from reaching spaces between plants - thus, limiting the chance of weed growth in those areas. Rain barrels also can be used to harvest rainwater for later use in landscapes as irrigation.
5. Water wisely: Water at night or in the morning - from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. - to reduce the chance of water being lost to evaporation in the mid-day heat. This timing allows grass to retain moisture but dry in enough time to prevent diseases that are more likely to develop in a wet-lawn.
6. Retain moisture with mulch: Spread mulch when seeding new areas to add a protective layer over soil. The mulch allows soil to retain moisture during the critical seed germination and establishment stages. The clippings from mulching mowers also serve the same purpose-- preserving soil moisture and nutrients for growing grass.
7. Fertilize thoughtfully: Fertilization supplies plants with essential nutrients for strength, uniform growth and a healthy, fibrous root system. A vibrant and healthy plant makes the best use of available water, meaning less water is needed over time. There also is less chance of the plant being "burned" or dried out to a point beyond recovery. Fertilizers, however, should not be applied during periods of drought.
For more information and additional resources, visit www.penningtonseed.com.