• Use mulch around your plants to prevent evaporation of water from the soil, and to keep the soil around plant roots cool.
  • Water early in the day when air temperatures are cooler to make sure the irrigation water you apply gets to the plant roots.
  • Erect temporary shade structures around heat-sensitive plants to prevent excess water evaporation from leaves. Wooden stakes placed a few inches apart on the side where sun exposure is greatest can help cool the plants and prevent heat damage.
  • Water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth.  The following advice pertains to established, mature plants:
    • For lawns: Irrigate 3 times per week, for the length of time it takes to get moisture 6 to 8 inches into the soil. You may need to split your irrigation into multiple cycles to prevent run-off of water from your lawn.
    • For annuals and perennials: Irrigate 2 times per week, for the length of time it takes to get moisture 8 to 12 inches into the soil.
    • For shrubs: Irrigate 2 times per week, for the length of time it takes to get moisture 12 to 18 inches into the soil.
    • For trees: Irrigate once per week, for the length of time it takes to get moisture 18 to 24 inches into the soil.
  • Use a long screwdriver or soil probe to test the depth of water movement into the soil.
  • Use drip irrigation wherever possible to prevent excessive evaporation of irrigation water. Use multiple rows of dripline around trees, with at least 12 emitters per tree. Dripline should be placed at least 12 inches from the trunk, with a second row close to the edge of the tree’s leaf canopy.
  • Don’t worry if your lawn begins to go summer dormant in the excessive heat. Most lawns can survive 2 to 3 weeks of dormancy, and will green up again as temperatures cool.
  • For future drought years, consider replacing unnecessary lawn areas with plants that can better handle heat and low-water conditions.
  • Although summer is not the time to install new landscape plants, remember that new plants will need to be observed closely and watered regularly until they are established. You will know they are established when new top growth begins.
  • If you need help making your irrigation system more efficient, contact a QWEL (Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper) certified professional. Find one near you.

Stay Cool this Summer!

Kratsch, H. 2021, Tips for Keeping Your Landscape Plants Alive During a Drought, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Blog

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Associated Programs

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Master Gardeners of Washoe County

Master Gardeners provide free, research-based horticulture information to Nevadans.

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Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL)

Training will provide participants with local water, soil and plant information, basic and advanced irrigation principles and hands-on water audit skills they can use in the field