Despite a below-average snowpack and a dry March thus far, Spring is coming in like a lion, as evidenced by the acid-yellow forsythia, the soft pinks of the flowering plums, and all the other buds ready to burst forth. It seems that this dry winter has not yet had an adverse effect on our landscapes—are we conflicted if we want to use less water in the landscape and still have astonishingly fabulous gardens? We may cringe at the very notion of sprinklers running this early, and yet, is it wrong, given how dry it is? Well, the answer is both “yes” and “no.”
Odds are that turfgrass does not need to be watered just yet. There is a handy test to verify this—grab a long screwdriver, 6 to 8 inches should do the trick, and plunge it into the turf in various places. If the screwdriver goes in with ease, chances are there is enough moisture in the soil for the grass. As a general rule, the screwdriver will go as deep as the soil is moist; 2 to 3 inches (or deeper) means no watering required, but less that 2 inches means those deep turf roots may be parched and dry. This is a handy trick all season long, by the way.
Trees and shrubs, particularly fruit trees, evergreens and anything planted within the last two years are a different story. Newly planted shrubs and trees may not yet have an adequate root system to meet water demand, and evergreen roots are growing as long as the ground isn’t frozen. So, consider dragging out a hose or bucket and giving your trees a drink. They will be stronger for it, you’ll be rewarded with lovely trees, and we’ll all benefit from a healthy urban forest.
For inspiration and information on water-wise gardening, visit www.slcgardenwise.com