By Jeff Ray

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – We have now entered that dreaded period for gardeners across North Texas: when the summer turns hot and dry.

North Texas weather is perfectly happy to go weeks at a time devoid of even a hint of rain and a relentless sun to bake the ground dry.

Meanwhile, as the ground dries out, the temperatures really start to heat up.

The stress on plants and trees starts to soar.

There is another underlying problem that this kind of heat can expose: water supply.

While the last few years have provided ample rains the last significant drought across North Texas reveled the inherent problem of having over seven million people living in an area of unsteady rain.

North Texas has created dozens of man-made lakes to capture the (usual) surplus of spring rain and hold it over the (usual) dry summer. Since these lakes provide our water supply it is important to minimize our water used for landscaping.

The most efficient way you can water your plants is by drip irrigation.

Some good news here; drip irrigation is somewhat easy to put in and uses relatively inexpensive parts.

If you have some do-it-yourself skills, you will likely be able to install your own system.

A couple of key points here to wring out the most efficiency for a drip system.

A customized hose is best though more difficult to lay down.

This is where you create your own drip pattern installing emitters directly where your permanent plants are.

There are different flow rates to emitters so you can even customize the drip to individual plant needs. You can use a hose that as spaced holes already drilled but it will put down water everywhere including areas where there are no plants.

Second point to make, make sure to cover the irrigation hose with a thick layer of mulch. If you see exposed drip hoses in a garden bed then you are seeing a system not correctly installed.

The mulch keeps the valuable water from evaporating away and allowing it to soak right down into the root zone.

The mulch also keeps the direct sun off the soil, so the plant doesn’t get so hot (and need yet more water).

The third point?

Don’t use a timer. Instead, watch the rainfall your yard has been getting and measure soil moisture with an inexpensive soil tester. Water as needed.

There could be long stretches in early summer when you don’t need to irrigate for weeks.

For more on irrigation, visit the Irrigation Association.

Another great website on using water wisely in your yard is the Texas Smart Scape site.

You can even get weekly watering advice from the Tarrant Regional Water District.