July 10th, 2012
That was brutal. We hit 101 degrees Saturday, and unless you’ve been watering, the soil moisture is becoming threateningly dry.
I’m already getting questions about evergreens turning into everbrowns and how to stop those hydrangeas from wilting. (Answers: When a conifer turns brown, it’s already dead. And hydrangeas often wilt from heat alone, even if you’re watering the dickens out of them. The way to tell the difference is that heat-wilted hydrangeas will perk up in the morning.)
Anyway, it’s been getting sneaky dry lately after a very nice late spring. Even though ground-water levels and stream flows say we’re not in drought danger, the soil moisture at root level is a different story.
Dig down a little, and you’ll probably find the soil in the root zone is nearly dust. That’s the area that matters most to plants — especially newly planted ones or other ones with shallow roots.
I’ve been spot-watering some of my more vulnerable plants.
That includes my new crop of trial shrubs and perennials that I just planted in spring as well as a crape myrtle I recently transplanted and a couple of last year’s new shrubs that were showing signs of stress (i.e. a young ‘Little Lime’ hydrangea with browning leaves, a pink-fruited blueberry scorching around the edges and a ‘Forever and Ever Fantasia’ hydrangea that’s been badly wilting).
I’ve also been watering all of my pots and baskets daily (sometimes twice a day) and have hose-watered a few beds of in-ground annuals every 3 or 4 days to keep them from wilting.
If this keeps up, I’ll knock off watering the annuals planted in the ground. They’ll have to fend for themselves at some point. I’ve got a well, and as much as I like Supertunias and angelonias, I like water coming out of the tap even better.
When the water supply gets tight, the lawn is the first thing I don’t water. Actually, I seldom water a lawn anyway (mainly just new grass or enough to keep a patch from dying when a drought drags on long enough). But the second-most planting I don’t water in drought is annuals. These are going to die at the end of the season anyway, so I focus my precious water on the more permanent — and expensive — trees, shrubs, evergreens and perennials.
For more on nursing your landscape through a heat wave, check out this page (http://georgeweigel.net/favorite-past-garden-columns/heat-busting-in-the-landscape).
Wicked heat wave aside, this season has been a good one so far for me. Most everything has thrived thanks to the regular rain and just-right temperatures we had, up until reality returned in the last couple of weeks.
It’s especially been an excellent year for veggies. I harvested my best crops ever of radishes and lettuce earlier, and now I’m swimming in red beets, cucumbers, green beans and the first round of cherry tomatoes.
The carrot and potato crop also has been good. I had some fun last week on Facebook after posting pictures of some of my carrots that came out with forked roots.
Take a look and see what you think. A few people wrote that I ought to get some pants for them!
Keep those plants watered…