3Qs: Jeff Wilson, Horticulture agent

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

With recent temperatures in the triple digits, lawns and gardens have been taking a real beating. Home and Garden editor Ginna Parsons spoke Friday with area horticulture agent Jeff Wilson of Mississippi State Extension about how to give some relief to yards and plants.
Q. How often should we water lawns, established plants and containers when the temperature hits 90 degrees and above and there’s no rain in sight?
A. Established lawns need one inch of water per week. It’s best to give that inch of water over two watering periods, like a half-inch Monday and a half-inch Thursday. The best way to do this is to put a sardine can or small dish in the yard and turn the sprinkler on and let it run for 30 minutes. Then stick a tape measure in the can and measure the water. Tuna cans are good because they’re typically about one-inch tall. In most yards, you’ll have to run the sprinkler 30 to 40 minutes to get a half-inch. That’s all it needs at one time. Watering too much can cause more problems.
For established plants – three-plus years – hand water once every two weeks, but when you do water, water very thoroughly, almost to the point of saturation.
For containers that have good quality potting soil, generally speaking, you’ll water every day or every other day. It depends on the plant that’s growing and the size of the pot. But at least every other day.

Q. What’s the best time of day to water?
A. If you have an automated system, then 2, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning is best. If you’re setting up a sprinkler yourself, then 9 or 10 in the morning or 4 or 5 o’clock in the evening. Watering early in the evening allows time for the water to dry off before the dew sets in. But if the only time you can water is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., do it, but know it will evaporate more rapidly than at other times of the day and you’ll have to water more often.

Q. Is there anything else, besides water, that gardeners can do to help keep plants moist and protected?
A. For containers, use a good potting soil and position pots where they get a little shade in the afternoon, say between 2 and 6. You can also put mulch around the base of established plants. Mulch adds beauty and keeps weeds down, but is also helps to regulate temperature and it holds soil moisture for plants in the ground.