Planting tips from a gardening meteorologist...
Garden-weather update: After commenting on how lucky we were to be between the deluges to our west and the impending drought to our east I fear I have tempted fate and the result is clearly shown here.
As you can see the lucky folks (getting rain) are on the Eastern Shore and the Frederick to Baltimore corridor while we here in the D.C. metro area and points south and west have been shunned. National Airport has seen a quarter of an inch so far this month. What is worse those dry soils add to the heat as well! I don’t know about you but I am getting all too familiar with my garden hose!
The good news is that rains appear to be on their way but gaps in storms this time of year are not unusual. I will make my impassioned plea one more time: if you are able, please water a street tree. They are really struggling after the recent heat and some of the young ones that are most vulnerable have already been lost. I thank anyone who makes that extra effort to make our city a more livable, breathable one.
Self-sowing plants: With all the time spent watering, I thought today would be a good day to extol the virtues of self sowing plants!
The wonder of new seedlings each year is something I really look forward to and am happy to promote. One of my first experiences with this was pansies. Those hardy devils were a delight in the early spring garden and hung in there until about this time of year when their main nemesis heat finally did them in.
The next fall, to my surprise, a smattering of pansy seedlings were popping up. They are easy to transplant in the cool temperatures since there can be some clumping, or just prune back to let the strongest ones grow unimpeded. I love that they weasel their way into nooks and crannies for delightful effect.
There are two tricks to getting good self-sowing results. Keep the mulch very light in the vicinity of these plants and don’t deadhead the spent flowers or at least not all of them so they can form the seeds. Before you know it you will have more than enough flowers and can share with friends.
Another of my favorites self-sowing varieties is the tall lanky verbena bonariensis. I love how they wave in the breeze and are popular with butterflies and just keep on blooming through any heat that summer can throw at them. Other good self sowing annuals are love-in-a-mist and cleome. In the veggie garden, I have a whole new crop of peppers from a few dropped fruits last summer.
Perennials are also good at this trick too! Salvias seed new plants sparingly but they take right off and produce tons of butterfly and bee friendly spikes. Once the initial bloom is done I dead head them for a whole new set of blooms, just be sure to leave a few to set seeds. Euphorbias are good self sowers. These are plants that are great because their “flowers” are really bracts and last forever in the garden. They come in a multitude of varieties.
Even trees and shrubs can self sow. I have some young holly bushes and raspberries from parent plants that are great fun to watch take off. However, anyone with a maple tree knows that there are problems with self sowers. I could have a forest of maples if I didn’t keep pulling. Now I love my maple and will do the dirty work but it is not for everyone. Mulching surrounding areas of these plants can help to keep the overachievers under control.
I would love to hear about other self sowers that you would like to add to this list!
Capital Weather Gang meteorologist David Streit is also an active gardener. He earned a certificate in landscape design from the USDA Graduate School and volunteered many years at the National Arboretum.