Get Ready for Summer

Be prepared to help plants through heat and dry weather

As the warmer weather returns, it’s time to evaluate your garden for the upcoming summer.

Oregon State University Extension Service experts offer tips for preparing for heat and drought.

Water Landscape Strategically

Water early in the morning when temperatures are lower. Rather than a little moisture every day, water plants infrequently and deeply before and during drought. Saturate the area 8 to 10 inches deep.

For lawns, add one-half to three-fourths of an inch of water per week, or let lawns go brown during the summer heat.

Don’t forget to water large trees. Wrap soaker hoses around the trees’ root zones.

Mulch To Conserve Water

Mulching is like putting a lid on a pot that’s boiling to prevent the water from evaporating quite as quickly. Mulches are not a substitute for irrigation, but they help soil retain water.

Place a 3- to 5-inch-thick layer of mulch on the soil. Large bark chips or arborist trimmings work best. As these mulch materials decompose, organic matter is added to the soil.

Put the Right Plant in the Right Place

Design your landscape so your plants won’t compete with each other
for shade and water. In other words, group plants with similar light and water requirements.

Prepare the Soil Adequately

Good quality soil helps retain moisture in times of drought. When you dig in, make sure you can break up the soil easily—a sign water can penetrate the ground without trouble. When air and water can’t move through the soil easily, plants can experience problems with diseases and root growth.

To build good quality soil, add organic matter, such as composted yard trimmings, composted manure, and leaves from deciduous trees.

Choose Plants That Don’t Get Thirsty in the Summer

Mulch helps soil retain water. Adobe Stock photo by Federico Magonio.

Some plants are so drought-tolerant that they only need winter rains to thrive and no irrigation at all during summer. Cold-tolerant varieties native to the Mediterranean region or native plants of the Pacific Northwest are good choices.

For ground covers, look at Point Reyes ceanothus, also known as Ceanothus gloriosus; and creeping broom, also known as Genista pilosa.

For shrubs, the extension service recommends the following varieties:

  • Dwarf strawberry bush (Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’)
  • Wild lilac (Ceanothus ‘Victoria’)
  • Rockrose (Cistus x hybridus)
  • Sunrose (Helianthemum nummularium)
  • Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
  • Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

For more information on mulching, visit the Oregon State University website.
For more resources and a plant list, visit our Landscape Without Water (PDF).
Read more about water-wise shrubs at the Oregon State University website.
Read more about preparing for heat and drought at the Oregon State University website.