Cooling Down our September Heatwave

Cooling Down our September Heatwave

Labor Day has come and gone and it’s pretty hard to believe it’s September with yet anotherheatwave upon us. But the biggest story in the gardening world is the drought. I came home from a week’s vacation in Vermont (where it was also hot and dry) and spent Sunday and Monday watering shrubs and trees. I was blessed to have Natureworker Kassie Moss1 take care of all of my newly seeded fall veggie beds, my 6 fig trees, and all of my potted plants while I was gone. BUT, to see full grown trees and shrubs that have been in the ground for 3, 5, even 8 years suffering really shocked me. I put my hose at a low setting at the base of each stressed out tree and shrub for about 10-15 minutes and moved it around throughout the two days while I puttered in the gardens deadheading, weeding, and picking veggies. I was thinking hard about what information I could share with you in this email about dealing with heat and drought. Here’s what I came up with:

  1.  Water seedlings every morning. I have radishes, brocolli raab, carrots, escarole, lettuce, and a lot more growing and they can’t be ignored. I am also feeding them with Organic Plant Magic in my watering can once a week.
  2. Water your container plantings every day. If you mulch them with shredded bark and they are in large pots (20-24″ or more in diameter) you may be able to go two days. Keep feeding them as the constant water will leach out the nutrients.
  3. Walk your gardens and look at your plants in the early evening. Most plants will wilt during the extreme heat of the day and that is normal. If they still look stressed out at suppertime, plan on deep soaking them. If you have a well, you will have to water in an organized fashion. Set a timer so you don’t forget to move the hose (or give your well a chance to recover).
  4. First, water the newest plantings- trees, shrubs, perennials that you have put in this year.
  5. Next, water the plants that are notoriously thirsty- hydrangeas, Callicarpa, Clethra, Itea. Remember, rhododendrons have shallow roots (we say their rootballs are as flat as pancakes) so they will need water first of all of your broadleaf evergreens.

    Rhododendrons have shallow root balls. Check them for watering ahead of your other shrubs in dry weather.

  6. Then, look at important or valuable plants that have been installed in the past five years. Water them if they seem stressed; if there are no visible problems, wait, but keep watching.
  7. Skip right over the plants that thrive in the heat- I never water Potentillas, Sedums, Perovskias, Agastaches, bearded irises, Asclepias tuberosa… you get the idea.
  8. If a plant is suffering terribly after wilting, be sure to water it weekly with Stress-X or Organic Plant Magic throughout the fall. Both help build back feeder roots which will help the plant recover.

Hopefully, by devoting this much room in the weekly email to this topic, we will have some deep soaking rains at the end of this week!