Temperatures are on the rise this summer and it can be a challenge to keep your garden alive and growing without breaking the bank. To help conserve water and keep your plants alive, try these eight helpful tips:

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1. Choose the Right Tool
Watering with a standard garden hose and nozzle can be the least efficient way to water because so much is lost as mist, runoff and evaporation. Instead, try using a soaker hose or a sprinkler wand.

2. Don’t Over-Water
A good rule of thumb is that your plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week, but there’s no set rule, so use your best judgement considering factors like the weather and your climate. Your best guide is always use the plant tag (the small spear-shaped plastic tag that came with the plant when you bought it). It will tell you the sun, soil, pH and water requirements.

If you didn’t keep your plant tag, keep the soil lightly moist and see how the plant responds. If conditions are especially hot and windy in your area, keep a careful eye out for wilting. If you see wilting, add water to the soil, but don’t overcompensate by drowning the plant. Over-watering is just as bad as under-watering; it leads to root rot and soil compaction that robs the roots of air.

3. Don’t Waste Water
Don’t soak the plant’s foliage; it does little good. And be careful not to apply water outside the root zone either. If you see water puddling or running off, stop. Let the water soak in before resuming.

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4. Make Sure Mulch Doesn’t Crust Over
Mulch is great for holding in moisture and keeping the base of plants cool. However, a thick layer of mulch can also form a crust that prevents water from getting to the roots. Break up crusted mulch with a rake to allow water in.

5. Test for Moisture
You can buy a tool (Outdoor Moisture Sensor Meter) to gauge your soil’s moisture level at your nearby nursery. But if you don’t have one, a large straight blade screwdriver is a good standby. Poke it into the soil; the drier the soil, the more resistance you’ll meet.

6. If You Can, Water in the Morning
If you water while it’s (relatively) cool outside, water has time to soak in before it evaporates on the surface. And if you do it in the morning, that helps the plant to take up the water during the day. Watering at dusk or early evening is okay, but you run the risk of fungus formation.

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7. Use Cool Water
Don’t use a hose that’s been coiled up, filled with water and sitting in the sun all day. That coiled hose can act like a water heater, and hot water stresses sensitive plants. Store your hose in the shade. If you can’t, run the heated water out before giving your plants a drink.

8. Water at Widely Spaced Intervals
It’s better to give your garden larger amounts of water at longer intervals than to apply small amounts frequently. Shallow watering encourages shallow rooting. In very hot weather, a good range for watering your garden is every other day. Again, make sure to monitor the soil moisture.

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Source: Popular Mechanics

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