I guess we all knew it was coming, but that doesn't make water rationing any easier. Watering every other day isn't really a problem, but the midnight to noon thing is difficult if you don't have automatic sprinklers (and if you do have them, I hate you.) (Okay, not really, I'm just jealous!)
For those of us who work days, we're going to have to be a little creative. And I don't know about you, but I have trees dropping leaves already, and I don't want to lose them, especially since I lost a large Dawn Redwood to drought last year.
Of course, on a positive note, technically, early morning is the best time to water. And think of the money we'll save on our water bills!
Even though this is voluntary, I urge everyone to comply so we don't end up having to do our laundry between midnight and noon!
Here are a few suggestions: (and if anyone else has anything to add, please do!)
Buy a soaker hose. My husband bought one at Atwoods really cheap! Can't remember how much is was, but I'd say $10 to $15. It's pretty long, too. Put it where you want it, turn it on low in the morning, and come home at lunch to turn it off. If you can't come home at lunch, turn it on at midnight and turn it off before you go to work in the morning.
Buy a deep-root waterer. If you have trees dropping leaves, especially smaller trees, you need one of these! I ordered one from Lowe's website for $19.95. Nothing fancy, but it works great and has a lifetime guarantee. You just hook up the hose to it, and stick it in the ground. Leave it in place 'til you see the water bubble up, then move it. I used the soaker hose a little while to soften the ground first, then stuck the deep-root waterer in the ground, moving it at about two-foot intervals around the drip-line of the tree, leaving it in each place for about 15 minutes. Warning: the first time I pulled it out of the ground, a geyser of mud erupted all over me. Yank it out quickly and watch where you point that thing - it's like a pressure washer!
The trees under the most drought stress are those with small leaves, like river birch, dawn redwood, willow, and cypress trees. The picture at the top is a young dawn redwood in part of our back yard where we never water, and the grass was brown. After using the soaker hose around the tree a little Saturday, and the deep root waterer Sunday, the grass around it magically turned green! (Good reason not to skip your fertilizer, even if your lawn is brown.)
Both the soaker hose and the deep-root waterer conserve water, because they're close to the ground, eliminating a lot of the evaporation that goes on when your sprinkler is spewing water into the air.
Focus on watering the plants you want to come back next year, because that's where your investment is. Your annuals are something you buy every year anyway, but it's very expensive to replace a tree or ornamental shrub. If it's a large tree, it's very expensive to remove it, too, and then you have to spend more money on a new one!
If you don't have a soaker hose or a deep root waterer, set sprinklers where you want them the night before, and turn them on as soon as you get up. Turn them off when you get in your car to go to work.
NOTE: If you have dogs or other pets outside, try to bring them in half a day - maybe go home at lunch and put them inside for the hottest part of the day. If you simply can't, be sure they have plenty of shade and fresh water, and check on them as soon as you get home. You can buy a baby wading pool at the Dollar Store or Walmart, and that will really help cool them off.
Our little garden friends like birds, bunnies and toads are suffering, too. A birdbath is heaven for them! I set out some pie pans with water for the toads and bunnies, and they use them!
If you have wading pools, pie pans and bird baths, be sure to change the water frequently (every other day) so you don't have a mosquito haven! If you don't have time to change it, just spray some water in it or stir up the top to drown any mosquito larva.
Even this usually hardy maple tree is showing signs of drought stress!