With the high temperatures and low rainfall so far this spring and summer, we’ve certainly gotten our just desertsand then some.
And as a result of the conditions, earlier this week the Department of Environmental Protection issued a water supply drought watch for North and Central Jersey.
The drought watch affects the Northeast, Northwest and Central regions. These regions include all of Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex, Hunterdon, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.
The purpose of the watch, according to the official release, is to “raise public awareness, formally alert all water suppliers in the affected regions, and seek voluntary cooperation to preserve existing supplies. The goal is to moderate demand should dry conditions persist.”
The DEP is urging residents in the affected areas to voluntarily conserve water and for the rest of the state to practice “wise water use due to continued dry weather that is impacting levels in reservoirs, lakes, rivers and streams as well as shallow ground water sources.”
Fret not, green-thumbers — all is not dust in the wind, or, should I say, in our gardens.
There are a number of ways to moderate water demands in our yards, without significantly affecting or hurting our plants.
Here are few tips for keeping your vegetation cool and comfortable in this time of extreme heat/drought:
ä Apply/add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around plants. Mulch helps keep in moisture around the base/roots of the plant.
ä Avoid watering lawns and plants during the heat of the day, since much of this water will evaporate without helping. The best time of day to water is the morning. It’s cooler for you and the plants.
ä It’s getting a little late in the season to install drip hoses or water barrels, but if you have wanted to do it anyway, give it a try. Drip hoses are a way to conserve and get water directly to the roots of the plants. Water barrels not only help with recycling runoff, they also can help with erosion issues.
ä Use a hose with a hand-held nozzle or a watering can to water shrubs, trees or flowers instead of a sprinkler. This will allow you to get the water to the roots, where the water is most needed. Water on leaves can spread disease.
ä If you must water lawns and landscaping, do so no more than two times per week for 30 minutes in the morning or late evening.
ä Know your plants’ needs. Some plants need a lot of water — like ferns, hydrangea and most vegetable plants. But some don’t need a lot of water — like sedum, salvia and coreopsis.
ä Don’t think waterlogging a plant is the answer. Roots need air to breathe. When the soil is filled with water, roots and absorption of water and minerals can be compromised.
ä Continue to deadhead plants and pick off ripened fruits and vegetables. The less the plants have to worry about, the less they will need watering.
ä One of the reasons plants in containers are a good idea: They are mobile. Move your containers to shaded areas to protect them from extreme sun exposure. Also, keep them off heat-intensive areas like rock, cement or macadam.
ä One of the reasons plants in pots are more of a chore: Containers need more watering than those in the ground. You could try using slow-watering plant decanters. A decanter (often sold as a globe) is filled with water and placed in the container, next to the plant. The plant absorbs the water (with little evaporation) when it needs it.
ä Check your outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses, watering cans and sprinklers for leaks.
ä If you are boiling veggies (like corn, this time of year) or even pasta, reuse the water. Let the liquid cool and pour it into the watering can for future use. Corn water — with all its nutrients — is especially good for plants.
ä Place pails, saucers and containers around your yard to collect water when it does rain. Use that to water plants. To keep mosquitoes from visiting, don’t allow water to sit.
For more information on water conservation, call 800-4-ITS-DRY or visit njdrought.org/ideas.html.
ä Rodale Institute has announced the recipients to be honored at the upcoming Sixth Annual Organic Pioneer Awards.
Yearly, the OPA recognize one research scientist, farmer and business that are helping lead the way to an organic planet.
This year’s recipients are Dr. Warren Porter, an environmental toxicologist from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying low-level pesticide exposures in food and water; farmer David Vetter, owner of Grain Place Foods in Nebraska, whose farm is among the first in the region to be certified organic; and David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s, a natural soap manufacturer and organic body care and food products maker.
For more information, visit rodaleinstitute.org.