The Mid-Atlantic is about to experience the heat wave of 2016. Later this week temperatures in triple digits are going to test our gardening expertise and only the strong, well trained gardens will weather this heat wave. As one who has not used my garden hose for my front meadow in 7+ years…..Yep- the meadow above, I have learned how to train my garden to be tough. However, I asked a few local resources what advice they would share to help get us not become discouraged. Wow, their knowledge only added to what I have already been practicing or read about. I called Behnke’s and spoke with Mary. Her advice was to make certain the garden is mulched properly. Why? Mulch insulates the soil, keeping it at a consistent temperature and the roots of your plants comfortable. How much mulch? Optimally 2 inches, definitely no more than 3 inches is sufficient. No mulch mountain, no mulch volcanos, a simple 2 – 3 inch layer is more than sufficient. This is what 2 inches of mulch looks like…(yes – you may now run outside and move that mulch mountain…please) I also called Homestead Gardens and spoke with Gene…or should I say Gene spoke to me and reinforced all that I learned from my years of being a Master Gardener, as well as utilizing best practices in my own garden. Gene’s tip – proper watering. Morning hydration is key to a well-trained garden. Making sure that water is not left on the leaves for sun scald or fungal diseases, know when your plants are requesting water. If you water deeply one or two times a week, you are training your plants to have deep roots. When the surface of the mulch is dry, a natural capillary action of using what is available underground is going on. Deep roots mean YOU don’t have to water as much. Those new plants that you put in??? Make sure that if the rest of the garden is watered deeply and doing well, water those new plants individually – still watering deeply and less often. In my opinion, a well-trained garden is a garden that does not require constant watering. A well-trained garden utilizes waterwise methods, survives in less than optimal conditions and survives on minimal care. Thank you Mary (Behnke’s Garden Center) and Gene (Homestead Gardens) for a mental refresher on what is important when anticipating a heat wave.
Here are a few additional tips that have gotten me through hot seasons. Tight on time? Who isn’t these days. Have you tried using a soaker hose??Soaker hoses can be woven through your flower beds, connected to your hose and turned on while you shower and prepare for work in the morning. The water will go directly to the roots, no evaporation into the air like a sprinkler and not on a 15 minute or so timer, allowing your plants to train for the Short Root Olympics. Also if you haven’t quite gotten around to planting those daily deals – yes I am guilty as well – immerse them in a bit of water utilizing a tub or bucket and place on the soil…NOT ON CONCRETE OR BRICKS. Keeping the roots hydrated will be key to their survival…until you find time to plant them. I add a few empty pots in my water to keep the pots upright and I dump it regularly. I also use a form of pond mosquito deterrents, so the mosquitos will not lay eggs to hatch, creating an environmental nuisance. Remember empty all standing water regularly to avoid the known risks such as West Nile, Zika and more.Another way of protecting some plants that might be super sensitive to temperature extremes is to use a floating row cover or Reemay. Reemay is a sheer, breathable fabric that allows sunlight and rain to reach the plants with a little buffer or wind break. Some might utilize this to drape over plants to offer a little bit of protection from drying hot winds. It also keeps bugs away.My final tip is to educate your self in advance, over the winter months, while on vacation or in your garden after a hard days work. THINK XERISCAPING!!! There are so many books out there to read, with information that will make you the hit of your neighborhood. Whimsical weather has made most gardeners ask more questions and make conscientious choices when adding to or reconfiguring the garden. I have many, many favorites on my Kindle App, but there is nothing like a book in the hand. There are a few books that I always keep handy…So let’s wake up earlier, turn on those soaker hoses, check your mulch levels and immerse not yet planted items in a bit of water. Pour yourself a glass of homemade lemonade with basil and read a few books to inspire you to garden in spite of the weather extremes. PS – Support your local garden centers. They are here for US!!
Always Mentally In the Garden,
Martina P Callum M.D.
Very timely advice!!
Thanks a lot for reading and responding to this post!!!