Nine Water-Saving Garden Tips to Fight Drought

A combination of protective row covers, mulch, and drip hoses will dramatically reduce water loss.

Hot weather drains garden plants dry and reduces productivity, especially when rain is scarce. More and more gardeners have had to change the way they grow because heat and drought limit the season. Rather than getting discouraged, they have learned smarter gardening techniques and how to stretch resources. Approaching the garden season with several lines of defense for drought is essential, especially where summer water restrictions are usually imposed.

US Drought Severity is Growing

Drought patterns in the US, last updated on 10/04/22. (Image thanks to the NDMC, SOAA, and USDA)

The problem is growing. In much of the American West and some eastern states, summer brings seasonal drought at different levels of intensity. According to NASA’s Drought Monitor, a third of the United States was faced with drought in 2020. They stated, “An estimated 53 million people are living in drought-affected areas.” It is a sobering number that shows no sign of decline, and it suggests that water-wise gardening has become a necessity for lots of American gardeners.

Keep Water Grounded

Professional growers opt for drip irrigation because it saves water and money. Home gardeners should do the same. Cover with a little straw, and it will hold water even better!

The first tips for saving water involve keeping it in the soil, while avoiding any aerosol or evaporative water loss from sprinklers or over-exuberant hand watering.

1. Amend soil with water-holding additives. Some soil components naturally hold lots of water and act as water reservoirs that make it more available to plant roots for longer. Organic matter (peat, compost, leaf mold, and coconut coir) is on the front line of holding water in the soil. Aerated organic matter soaks water up like a sponge and easily redistributes it to plant roots, For example, processed coconut coir soaks up 90% of its weight in water. Inorganic soil additives, like water-holding crystals and vermiculite, also hold water but are better suited for container gardening.

2. Use drip irrigation: Drip irrigation, in the form of drip-tubing systems for containers or drip hoses and drip tape for beds, deliver water at soil level where it quickly soaks into the ground, and is not lost by evaporation. Drip systems are the best for delivering garden water. In contrast, sprinklers lose an excessive amount of water to evaporation, and water delivery is not targeted.

3. Apply light mulches or coverings: Straw, compost, leaf mulch, or plastic row coverings hold soil water and stop surface evaporation. Use soil coverings in conjunction with drip irrigation, and soil amendment, and you will be set. (Click here to learn how a high-desert vegetable gardener used straw bales to protect her crops with great results.) (Click here for a full overview of different mulch types.)

Large, light-colored, ceramic pots hold water better and stay cooler.

4. Choose larger pots or containers that are glazed or water-impermeable and light in color. Large planters that are light in color hold more water better. Glazed or other water-impermeable surfaces keep the water in, unlike common unglazed Terracotta, which is porous and quickly loses water from its sides. Lighter pots also reflect heat, which helps keep plant roots cooler and happier.

5. Track Watering and Water Deeply: Keep track of watering time and length to determine the general amount needed to keep your garden happy. Soil moisture meters for pots make it easy to know when it is time to water, which takes the guesswork out, though most planters need daily watering when it is really hot and dry. When it comes to garden beds, water deeply–for at least a couple of hours–to ensure that water penetrates down to the roots. Deep watering also encourages deeper rooting, which helps plants get through tough, dry weather.

Manage Light to Reduce Water Loss

Lightweight floating row cover cloth, like this, or movable hoops covered with lightweight row cloth, can really help some crops withstand high heat and drought.

5. Reduce excess sunlight with light hoop covers. When temperatures are scorching and the sun is hot, floating hoop covers draped with lightweight row-cover cloth can be placed over small beds or low-growing garden vegetables to give them a rest and help conserve water. They will still get the light that they need, but the heat will be reduced a bit. Covers secured at both ends can also be helpful in keeping pests away. Greens, carrots, beets, turnips, and comparable crops appreciate this sort of light protection the most. (Click here for more row cover basics.)

6. Use strategic shading and timing. Plant perennials or pots in locations where they get some shade during the hottest time of the day in summer (between 2 and 4 pm). This will help them hold onto water when the weather is most extreme. Watering in the early morning, before the sun rises, will also help plants make it through hot, dry days. If you live in an area where the drought is bad, feel free to irrigate plants in the evening without fear of encouraging diseases. When it is severely hot and dry, plants need lots of moisture at the root zone to fill up with water and keep cool.

Collecting Water for Reuse

When rain does fall, it is wise to set up ways to collect runoff water–such as rain barrels or cisterns. Before doing so, one must know their roof composition beforehand because two roof types release high concentrations of dangerous heavy metals. These are roofs made of 1) uncoated galvanized metal, which releases high concentrations of zinc, and 2) treated wood shakes that release high concentrations of copper. All other roof types should be fine, according to research. Be sure to keep the tops covered to avoid mosquito breeding and possible animal drownings. Here is a little more information about these water collecting reservoirs.

7. Collecting water in Rain Barrels or Cisterns: Rain barrels are quite inexpensive and easy to install for rainwater collection. They connect to gutter downspouts to capture roof rainwater. Not only does this reduce watering costs, but many plants prefer rainwater over tap water. I recommend placing barrels up on cinder blocks to improve water flow from the release valve at the base. It makes it easier to fill watering cans or hook up hosing for garden irrigation. Be sure to empty your rain barrel at the end of the season if you live in an area with cold winters.

Cisterns are water collectors that store more water, and they may be kept above- or below-ground. They may be designed to collect rainwater, air-conditioning condensate, or even reserves of well-water. Unlike rain barrels, they are more costly to install but recommended for areas where water is limited and restricted. If you live in a place with annual seasonal rainfall of 15-inches/year or more (click here to see US annual rainfall averages), then consider installing a rainwater cistern.

Grow Drought-Tolerant Plants

Western hyssops (Agastache spp.) are some of the most beautiful, drought-tolerant garden flowers for pollinators that you can grow,

Some plants use water more efficiently or hold onto it better when the rain stops falling.

8. Grow Drought Tolerant Plants. Plants from the Mediterranean and arid West, as well as succulents, tend to shine in heat and drought. Those naturally adapted to more severe drought are often labeled as Xeric or Waterwise plants, and many specialty nurseries carry them. High Country Gardens is one great commercial online seller and Xera Plants is another. Most garden retailers these days also carry lots of drought-tolerant plants. Specialty succulent nurseries, especially those with lists of hardy plants, are also worth looking into. I like Mountain Crest Gardens.  Their plants always arrive in great shape and perform beautifully. There are many more out there! Click on the links below for more drought tolerant plant resources.

What Is the Best Time of Day to Water Plants?

“What time of day should I water my plants?” question from Courtney of Roebling, New Jersey

Answer: It really depends on where you live and what your soil and climate are like. In a very dry region, I’d suggest watering in the evening and possibly again in the morning, depending on the time of year and the severity of drought. But, where you live in the Mid-Atlantic, rainfall is ample, so watering plants in the evening can encourage fungal and bacterial diseases.

My horticultural colleague, Russell Stafford, says, “Water in the morning before the heat of the day, or at daytime hours on cloudy days. Use a hose with a watering wand or watering can to directly irrigate recently installed plants. Soaker hoses, drip systems, and other irrigation methods that directly contact the soil are ideal for established plantings.  (Sprinklers waste water.)” I have to agree, and might also add that I like to water the base of plants, at the root zone, rather than spraying foliage unnecessarily. Of course, if you miss watering in the morning, it does not hurt to water midday or even in the mid-afternoon. It’s just nice for plants to dry out a bit before the evening. Click here for more excellent watering tips from Russell.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Why Is My Newly Transplanted Tree Wilting?

Why Is My Newly Transplanted Tree Wilting?

“Hi! How do you revive a newly transplanted flowering tree whose leaves and flowers are wilting? It was planted in loose, rich black organic soil (no chemicals have ever been added). It was dug up from my brother’s flower garden, and it was in rocky sandy soil at the time. I brought with me some of the soil it was used to, to add to the hole it was put into. It is being watered every day. It looks worse and worse every day. 🙁 Could you please tell me if it doesn’t perk up yet this year if it will renew itself over the winter and come back next year as it is too beautiful to lose. Thanks for your time and attention in answering my dilemma!” Question from Sylvia of Belle Plaine, Minnesota

Answer: Stop watering! Sometimes too much love–or in this case too much water–can be detrimental to a new planting. If you moved your tree from a location with rocky, sandy soil, and it was growing well there, then it likely requires fast-draining soil and tolerates less water. By moving it to a new location and watering it daily, several things happened. It had too few roots and too much soil moisture while experiencing the shock of transplant.

Tree Transplanting Tips

Wild- or garden-dug trees have sparse root systems with fewer feeder roots, unlike pot-grown trees. When moving them, it is important to retain as much of the rootball as possible to keep the roots intact and undamaged. But, even if you do the best job moving the tree, lots of feeder roots (the fine roots that take up the most nutrients and water) will be lost. Trees are happier when planted in soil with comparable drainage and characteristics to their original native soil–in this case, the soil in your brother’s garden. The addition of light soil amendments, such as Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, can be helpful, but too much can cause the bathtub effect, so use sparingly. (Click here for good tree and shrub planting/transplanting guidelines.)

After planting, keep the soil around the tree just moist, but never wet. Light moisture will allow new feeder roots to develop, while too much water will overwhelm the delicate, shocked root system of a new transplant and can cause root rot. In your case, I would water the tree weekly in the absence of rain. If temperatures are very high, a little extra water can be added if wilting occurs.

I hope that these tips help and your tree bounces back.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Soils

What is the Best Time of Day to Water a Garden?

What is the Best Time of Day to Water a Garden?

“What time of the day is best to water your garden?” Question from Joy of Delta, Ohio

Answer: Timing is everything when it comes to good irrigation. In areas with regular rain and higher humidity, the best summer watering time is in the cool early morning when soil-water retention is highest. Early moisture prepares plants for hot midday temperatures. In turn, watering at the hottest time of day—between 12 noon and 3:00 pm—is the least effective time to water because more evaporation occurs and plants take in less water in high heat and sun. Midday watering in high sun can also damage the leaves of some plants. Watering late in the day can encourage various diseases and other problems, unless you live in an arid climate where watering in the evening is preferable for soil-water retention.

Good Soil Amendments for Water Retention

To reduce the need to water, add good garden soil amendments, such as coconut coir, peat moss, and compost, improve soil porosity and moisture retention, which increases water uptake by roots. OMRI Listed® Black Gold® Just Coir is pure, organic, processed coconut coir that holds a lot of water to bring added moisture to garden beds and containers. Black Gold® Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss also has a high water-holding capacity, but it also has a low pH, so apply it to more alkaline soils or where acid-loving plants will be grown. Vegetable and flower gardeners rely on OMRI Listed® Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend to add needed water-holding organic matter to the soil. Compost also makes high-quality light mulch.

I hope that this information helps!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Should I Irrigate My Santa Rosa Plum Tree?

How Should I Irrigate My Santa Rosa Plum Tree?

“How often should I water with drippers my 20-year-old Santa Rosa plum tree?” Question from Gloria of Morgan Hill, California

Answer: Even established trees with deep roots need supplemental water during dry spells. In arid areas where soils are poor, irrigation is even more important, as is fertilization. Let rainfall decide when you irrigate your Santa Rosa plum tree (Prunus salicina ‘Santa Rosa’). During extra dry periods, you may need to water it two to three times a month. Remember that tree roots flare out, and most feeder roots are along the periphery of the flare, so avoid just watering near the trunk. The flare often follows a tree’s branching, so water further out to really irrigate properly.

Plum trees grow best in fertile soils that drain well. Adding a layer of compost, such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend around the roots each year can help slowly feed the soil and hold in needed moisture.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Why Do Some Potting Soils Turn Green?

“Why do some potting soils turn green? What is it, and how can I avoid this from happening? Thank you.” Question from Angela of Taylor, Michigan

Answer: Any potting soil can turn green. That is because it is algae, or more rarely moss, that is causing the green color, and excess water on the soil surface is the culprit. A green layer on your soil means too much water. When you water to the point where the surface soil is kept wet, this invites the growth of algae. Algae and algal spores can exist in soil, water, or even air, so “clean” soil won’t keep the problem away. The best way to avoid algae is to clean up and change your watering practices.

Cleaning Up Algae in the Pot

Start by skimming off the first couple of inches of greenish potting mix on your pot tops, and refresh with new potting mix. We recommend replenishing with Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix. It is also important that you have pots that drain well and bottom saucers for watering. If you need to upgrade your plant’s pots, it’s worth it. Pots like these will enable bottom watering.

Watering to Avoid Algae

Allow the top two inches of potting soil to become dry between watering. This will halt algal growth. Another method is to water your plants from the bottom saucer only when they need it.

To learn more about best-practices for plant watering, read our article How to Water House Plants.

Happy watering!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


How to Water House Plants

Watering house plants…it sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, if it were simple, there would be fewer black thumbs out there. Proper watering is at the heart of good plant care, and if you don’t know how to water a plant, then its little green future may be in peril. It is surprisingly easy to drown a plant with aqueous attention.

There isn’t a one-fits-all watering method because the needs of plants vary so widely. Some specialty plants, like many orchids and African violets (click here to learn more about African violet care.), require special watering, but lots can be grouped into heavy, average, and light watering categories. These are the plants covered in this article. Many characteristics impact watering, including the plant type and size, the growing environment, and even the pot type.

Watering and Pots

Consider drainage, pot material, and pot size before planting. You’ll also need a good saucer for catching overflow.

Before considering how to water what, it is necessary to cover planting containers. Consider these three container characteristics before potting up a plant or determining a water regime.

1. Drainage – First, unless you are watering an aquatic plant, pots must have drainage holes at the bottom, which allow water to fully drain. Otherwise, water will pool at the bottom and stagnate because of a lack of air. This will result in root rot or no root growth the soppy bottom of the pot. So, not only do drainage holes allow roots to get fresh water from top to bottom at each watering, but they help give roots needed air.

2. Material – The pot’s material will also impact a plant’s access to water. Terracotta pots soak up and release water, which increases the need to water. So, refrain from planting water-needy plants in Terracotta. Ceramic, fiberglass, and plastic pots are more watertight.

3. Size – Consider pot-to-plant and root-to-soil ratios. Larger plants in smaller pots need more water, while smaller plants in larger pots need less water. Why? Because smaller root systems soak up less water, and if little plants are grown in larger pots, the soil will hold water for longer. The flip side is that when the roots of a large plant outgrow a pot and become intertwined, they no longer have room to take up water, so the need to water greatly increases, especially when conditions are hot, dry, and sunny. Plant roots need room for good water uptake.

Watering and Environment

Most tropical house plants grow best in indirect light but prefer average warmth and relatively high humidity (or the occasional water spritz).

Just use common sense when weighing environment and plant watering needs. When conditions are sunny, dry, hot and/or breezy, plants need more water. So, if you place them in a hot, sunny window, near a vent or radiator, or in a warm conservatory or sunroom, plan to water more. Likewise, in lower-lit rooms that are cooler or very humid, the need for water will be reduced.

The soil environment also plays a big role in watering frequency. The more water your potting soil holds, the less water the plant will need. For example, Black Gold®Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix holds a high amount of water, unlike Black Gold® Cactus Mix and Black Gold ® Orchid Mix, which hold far less water. Black Gold® All Purpose Potting Mix is somewhere in the middle. We create different potting mixes because plants have different soil-water needs. That’s why it’s important to pot up a plant in the right mix.

Watering and Moisture Testing Methods

Succulents require far less water, especially in winter, so test the soil to be sure it is quite dry before watering.

The most basic watering method is simple; water the pot entirely until the bottom saucer is filled. Do this every time you water, and make sure there are no dry pockets in the potting mix down below (this can happen when soil becomes too dry between waterings). Consistent, thorough watering will also allow you to better calculate when to regularly water a plant.

When to rewater is the trickiest bit that gets new house-plant growers into trouble. How can you tell when you need to rewater? There are a few ways to determine this with average house plants. Most gardeners use the finger test. Stick your finger down into the soil. When it feels dry down to a couple of inches, then rewater. But, some gardeners want greater precision. Soil-moisture meters are accurate and popular with calculating gardeners. They indicate the level of moisture in the mix down to any given depth, allowing for more precise watering. Once you have a good watering rhythm, the need to test should be less frequent or even unnecessary.

Plants That Need Heavy Water

Ferns and many large-leaved tropicals are among the plants that require more water.

Think big. Large and thin-leaved tropicals, fast-growing plants, and those with big, fast-growing root systems require more water. They soak it up and spit it out quickly. (Some large-leaved plants with thick, tough, waxy leaves can be exceptions because some hold onto water quite well.) Elephant ears (Alocasia and Colocasia spp.), Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), and peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.) fall into the heavy-watering category as well as semi-aquatic plants, like papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). Depending on the growing environment, they may need to be watered daily or every few days.

Plants That Need Moderate Water

Many tropicals with slender or average-sized leaves perform very well with moderate (sometimes even low) water.

Moderately vigorous plants that are not succulent often require moderate water. These are your not too much, not too little, in the middle plants. Soil moisture meters are perfect for these. Begonias, spider plants, peperomia, pilea, palms, and philodendron all fall into this category. They may need to be watered once or twice a week under average indoor growing conditions.

Plants That Need Little Water

Cacti and succulents are among the easiest to kill because wayward gardeners tend to overwater them.

Cacti and succulents, such as agave, aloe, echeveria, and jade plants (click here to read more about growing jade plants), require the least amount of water. The main killer of these plants is heavy winter watering. In their natural habitats, most endure a dry winter period, so this is what they expect in homes as well. Root rot, stem rot, and plant death are the side effects of heavy watering, so it’s best to err on the side of safety and water little to none between late fall and spring–maybe once a month. If you bring them outdoors in hot summer weather, the need for water will increase to approximately three to four times a month.

Lots of semi-succulent tropicals are also surprisingly tolerant of low water. Snake plant (Sansevieria spp.), cycads (Cycas spp.), and ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are included in this group. (Click here to watch a video about tough, low-water house plants.)

When getting the hang of watering a new plant, make sure you fully understand its growing and moisture needs. Then refrain from the desire to water just a little bit more or a little bit less than it needs. Get basic watering right, and you will be on your way to having a true green thumb.

If you are not certain of a plant’s specific water needs, then ask our garden experts via Ask a Garden Expert!

ZZ plant is a semi-succulent tropical that also requires low water.

DIY Seed Starting: Watering (Part 5 of 6)

Every gardener has done it at least once. Watering newly sown pots too aggressively, which dislodges seeds, moving them all across the soil surface. That’s why watering indoor seedlings properly is essential in the first weeks after sowing.

Watering Seeds

How you water seeds depends on the sowing depth, pot size, and available watering tools. Shallowly planted seeds need more gentle watering tools, such as misters, while more deeply planted seeds can tolerate the water pressure from fine watering cans and spray nozzles. They can also be bottom watered from their tray or dish.

If you live in a warmer climate, take pots or flats outside to water. Buy a nozzle for your hose with a mist setting to gently soak pots. With a misting nozzle, you can water the soil’s top layer without over-saturation. Bottom watering will help moisten the soil below. Where winters are cold, rely on super-fine sprayers or misters.

Fine Spray - Maureen Gilmer
Fine Spray: This short-handled water wand features a fine spray nozzle ideal for young seedlings.

Watering Seedlings

For seedlings, there are two watering options–top or bottom watering. If you like to water from the top, tiny seedlings should continue to be misted, but once they develop several leaves, they can be watered with a small watering can or nozzle with fine, well-distributed flow. Make sure you water enough to allow the soil to drain to the bottom. Let surface soil become somewhat dry between watering to avoid fungus gnat and fungal disease problems. (Click here to watch our video about fungus gnats.)

Mist - Maureen Gilmer
Mist: Adjustable nozzles offer a mist setting for seedlings.

Bottom watering pots from trays or saucers allows moisture to wick up through the drain holes to growing roots. It wets the soil mass completely without dry pockets.  This bottom-up method may be repeated every week or two, depending on how hot and dry the local climate.

Finally, keep your eye on the weather as the weeks pass. When conditions are humid, water less. When it’s hot or dry, water more often. Overwatering can lead to root and stem rot and underwatering will parch and kill seedlings.

As you bring your seedlings outdoors to harden off, watch out for windy weather as it tends to rapidly draw moisture out of both the foliage and the soil. Then check your crop twice a day to determine watering needs, and let Mother Nature take care of the rest.

How Much Water Should I Give My Indoor Succulents?

“I seem to have a problem keeping my plants happy. What is a good amount of water for succulents?” Question from Becky of Cambridge, Nebraska

Answer: It depends on the time of year and climate. It is very easy to overwater indoor succulents, especially in the winter months. Overwatering leads to root and crown rot, real succulent killers.

Watering Succulents from Winter to Fall

In general, succulents require little to no water in winter. This mimics the natural dry season that they experience in the wild. During the growing months (spring through fall), give them limited water. I often water mine between two to four times a month, depending on how hot and dry it is. In drier weather, I water them well once a week, or four times a month.

It is also essential to plant them in a very fast-draining mix, like Black Gold Cactus Mix. This will ensure that less water is held at their root zone, which will discourage rot. Also, be sure to give them as much indoor sunlight as possible. (Click here to learn more about growing succulents indoors.)

Happy succulent growing,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Five Best Ways to Save Water in the Garden

Roof rainwater trickles into a classic garden rain barrel.

Smart gardeners prepare for summer dry spells and drought. A little water can go a long way if you plan ahead with effective water conservation techniques. Implement one (or more) of our five ways to save water in the garden, and not only will your plants grow better in dry weather, but you will also spend less time and money on watering.


1. Collect and Redistribute Water

Rain barrels are the best tools for rainwater collection. They connect to gutter downspouts to capture roof runoff. Collecting rainwater reduces watering costs, and plants generally prefer rainwater to tap. Fill watering cans from rain barrels or hook hosing up to them for gentle garden irrigation.

Cisterns are larger above- or below-ground water storage units used to collect rainwater, air conditioning condensate, or even well-water reserves. They are more costly to install but useful for gardeners living where water is limited and often rationed. Roof collection cisterns are only recommended only for areas with adequate annual seasonal rainfall of 15-inches/year or more (click here to see US annual rainfall averages).

Know your roof composition before collecting roof rainwater. In a 2-year study, two roof types leached high concentrations of heavy metals; uncoated galvanized metal roofs released high concentrations of zinc, and treated wood shakes released high concentrations of copper. Refrain from roof water collection if you have these roof types.

Cisterns collect large amounts of rainwater, well-water or even air-conditioning condensate.

2. Irrigate at Soil Level

Ground-level irrigation results in less water loss. For large gardens, weave soaker hoses through beds—setting your intake nozzle closest to the hose spigot. Soaker hoses are water-permeable lines that slowly release water into the soil. They can easily be covered with straw or mulch, to keep beds looking attractive while further retaining soil moisture. Mark covered soaker hoses to keep them from getting damaged by stray trowels or spades.

Plastic drip lines release water from perforated holes or extensions of fine drip tubes. Lines of perforated drip tape are inexpensive and easily set along vegetable garden rows. Pot dripper systems work best for complexes of garden containers. Dripper systems consist of a central hose line that connects smaller lines into each container. (Dripworks makes a great deck garden drip irrigation kit.)

Plastic bottle irrigation is popular with tomato growers. Simply perforate a clean, 2-Liter plastic bottle and fully sink it alongside a newly planted tomato at planting time (leaving the top accessible). At watering time, simply fill the underground bottle with water—being sure to keep the lid on between watering. It’s an inexpensive and effective way to deeply irrigate thirsty tomatoes in the heat of summer.


Well-placed drip lines irrigate lettuce plants at the soil level.


3. Time Irrigation

Timing is everything when it comes to good irrigation. The best summer watering time is in the cool early morning when soil water retention is highest. Early moisture prepares plants for hot midday temperatures. In turn, watering at the hottest time of day—between 12 noon and 3:00 pm—is the least effective time to water because more evaporation occurs and plants take in less water in high heat and sun.

Hose timers streamline watering. There are two kinds—mechanical and digital timers. Mechanical timers are low cost and can be set for between 15 to 120 minutes, though they can’t be preset. Digital timers are more costly, but they can be preset for specific watering times.

For deep watering, set soaker or drip irrigation to low pressure, and time the irrigation to fully wet your garden plants or pots. One to two hours is often adequate, though soil quality should be considered when calculating watering time. Light, porous, organic-rich soil needs less watering time because it readily percolates and retains moisture. Dense, clay-rich soils are slower to percolate and need longer, deeper watering. Poorer quality garden soils should be amended and mulched yearly to improve water retention and porosity.

Drip irrigation systems are easily set on timers for precision watering.

4. Retain Soil Moisture

Good garden soil amendments, such as coconut coir, peat moss, and compost, improve soil porosity and moisture retention, which increases root water uptake. OMRI Listed® Black Gold® Just Coir is pure, organic, processed coconut coir that holds a lot of water to bring added moisture to garden beds and containers. Black Gold® Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss also has a high water-holding capacity, but it also has a low pH, so apply it to more alkaline soils or where acid-loving plants will be grown. Vegetable and flower gardeners rely on OMRI Listed® Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend to add needed water-holding organic matter to the soil. Compost also makes high-quality light mulch.

Mulches are like soil blankets that hold in water. The best garden mulches include quality compost, fine leaf compost, and straw and grass clippings (for vegetable gardens). Surprisingly, large ornamental rocks hold a lot of soil water beneath them. These are all better than thick bark mulch, which is often applied so thickly that overhead water cannot percolate through to reach plant roots.

Supplement containers with coconut coir or water-holding moisture crystals. Black Gold® Moisture Supreme Container Mix and Black Gold® Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix are both fortified with coconut coir for natural water retention.

5. Supply Midday Shade

A little midday shade can help garden plants withhold water better.

Sun-loving plants appreciate one or two hours of protection from the hot midday sun. The hottest time window is between 12 noon and 3 pm, with 3 pm being the hottest point. A well-placed umbrella, pergola, or awning can offer just enough shade to help plants retain moisture through the worst of the day’s heat.

Anyone of these water-saving changes can help you save water while increasing the health and success of your summer plants. All are best done early in the season, allowing you to reap the rewards when summer heat and drought appear.