It’s best to water lawns deeply and infrequently. About 1 inch per week is all you need. And if you’ve let it go dormant, there’s no use trying to get it green again this summer. Just wait for fall.

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In the Garden

With our drought conditions, it’s important to water so that every drop counts this summer. Generally, it is better to water deeply and infrequently. Lawns (if you decide to water your grass rather than letting it go dormant) and well-mulched planting beds generally need only 1 inch of water per week, even in the hottest weather.

Place out a bunch of plant saucers or tuna cans and mark 1 inch up from the bottom with indelible ink. Now run your sprinklers as you normally would and time how long it takes to fill the majority of the saucers to the mark. That’s how long you need to run your sprinklers each week to apply 1 inch of water.

If your lawn or beds slope, causing the water to run off, or the soil is sandy and water tends to soak right in, divide the time in half, and water twice per week. It’s best to water late at night or as early as possible in the morning.

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Bainbridge in Bloom, 27th annual garden tour:

9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, July 10-11. Six beautiful, private Bainbridge gardens with live music. Ticket price is $35 for adults, $15 for students K-12, and free for age 5 and under (buy in advance or at the hub: 7566 High School Road N.E., Bainbridge Island).

Normandy Park Garden Festival:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 11. Plant sale in a beautiful garden with interesting plants. I will give garden tips starting at 2 p.m. Park at Marvista Park (19990 4th Ave S.W., Normandy Park) and follow signs. Free.

Seattle Tilth’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 11. Self-guided tour to see simple and finely-crafted chicken coops. Also see what accommodations are needed for keeping miniature goats, ducks, mason bees, honey bees and bunnies. Tickets are $12; discounts for youth ($5 for ages 4-15), group ($35 for three to six people), member ($10), bicyclist ($10).

Apply the water as slowly as possible and, whenever practical, use a drip system or soaker hoses. Impact sprinklers apply water much more slowly than oscillating sprinklers.


Related video: Competing for a gold-medal garden

Over three feverish days, Bob Lilly and his team of Arboretum Foundation volunteers struggle to transform their plot inside the Washington State Convention Center into an award-winning garden. Read more. (Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)    

It’s totally all right to buy and plant new trees, shrubs and perennials even in the heat of summer, as long as you’re willing to hand-water as often as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist to give your new treasures time to establish deep roots. Usually after a couple weeks of nurturing, new plants are able to fend for themselves, and you’ll be able to cut back watering to the normal schedule.

Let sleeping lawns lie (dormant)

If you haven’t been watering your lawn, chances are the grass has already turned brown. Once that happens, the lawn has gone dormant and it’s not a good idea to try to green it up again. It would take at least two weeks of watering every night to bring it back to active growth and start the greening process.

Normally, it won’t do any harm to let your grass remain dormant until fall by waiting to water and fertilize until the grass begins greening back up in mid-to-late September. This year could be an exception, however. If it remains as unusually hot and dry as some forecasters are predicting, the grass could literally die of thirst. If we don’t get any significant rain this summer, water your lawn at least once per month during July and August. You don’t want to water so much that you bring the grass out of dormancy. Instead, water only once per month and apply about 1 inch of water each time. That won’t be enough to cause the grass to break dormancy, but will provide enough moisture to keep your lawn alive.

Watering once a month is also advisable if you have trees growing in a lawn that was allowed to go dormant. Trees remain actively growing in the heat of summer and can be harmed if the soil is allowed to become bone dry. Usually watering once per month is enough to provide adequate moisture to keep the trees healthy and better prepared to withstand winter conditions.