Mulch, water keys to successful drought-resistant landscaping

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Unseasonably hot and dry weather has made gardening and landscaping more challenging than usual for local home and business owners.

Sandy Philyaw, owner of Sandy's Landscape and Design, doesn't think that the sole reason for less-than-average nursery sales is weather, but a combination of heat and the economy and losses in the stock market.

"Landscapers are one of the businesses that are hurting because of the economy. In Craig, we deal with the little guy your average home owner, and they are being more cautious with their money," Philyaw said.

But landscaping doesn't to have to be high maintenance, she said.

"We do what is called xeriscaping, which means landscaping that is an economical, efficient and environmentally sound way of developing your yard," she said. "There are more water-efficient plants and grasses than others. Kentucky Blue Grass requires water every three days, but there are others that don't require as much water once they are established."

Philyaw and her husband, Rob, assess problem areas when designing the landscape of a client's yard.

"Most people who desire landscaping have a specific 'problem area,'" she said. "Our job is to

determine why things aren't growing there high wind or bad soil are common. Just because a plant isn't growing doesn't necessarily mean

it's because of the drought," she

said.

The most important thing people should do is mulch their landscaping, Philyaw said.

"Mulch doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Shredded newspaper, cardboard boxes and old carpets are all mulch, and they are free," she said. "The purpose of mulch is to retain water for the root system and to help eliminate weeds. So rocks, wood bark, sawdust and wood chips are also sufficient mulch."

Mulch also provides warmth and gives seeds a place to take hold, Philyaw said, but keeping the mulch away from the bark or stems of the plants is important so that rotting does not occur.

A common misconception is that watering should be done in the evening hours for as long as possible.

"The best time to water is between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.," she said. "Plants do not like to go to bed with their feet wet, but they don't mind getting up and taking a shower. The more you treat your plants like people, the better off you'll be.

"And don't water during the heat of the day. A little sprinkle to beat the heat is OK, but heavy watering should be done in the early morning."

Most people water their lawns for hours on end in the evening hours, but a little goes a long way, Philyaw said.

"When watering, whether on flat ground or a hillside, water for 10 minutes, stop for 15 minutes to a half an hour and then water again for another 10 minutes," she said. "Watering for a solid 20 minutes or more equals about a half inch of water, which your lawn cannot absorb. Watering more frequently for less time takes a little longer, but you will have a much better lawn."

Philyaw suggests purchasing a water timer, which generally cost less than $20, to make watering in the early morning hours easier. She also suggests using water creepers or soaker hoses that keep water low to the ground, which lessens the chance of evaporation.

And if gardeners are able to beat the heat and drought, Philyaw offers advice on how to keep the bugs away.

"Once a week add a little dish soap to your water in a poison sprayer or other application method. A half a cup will cover 1,000 feet," she said. "Wash bushes, trees, lawn, flowers in the evening or early morning, but not at watering time. Soap makes the water wetter and it spreads it out, reducing the amount of evaporation. You won't lose as much water, and your soil won't dry out as quickly. This method also kills many bugs," she said.

And when all else fails, Philyaw suggests taking a drive around Craig to see what is growing in people's yards. Look at vacant lots to see what things have been planted that nobody is taking care of. And, as a rule of thumb, the softer the woodier the stem, the more drought

resistant the plant.

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