The Washington Post

Taking advantage of the dry weather for gardening

Percent of precipitation received over last two months compared to average (Great Plains Regional Climate Center)

I know it is hard to think about getting out the sprinklers, buckets and hoses but this pattern does not look like it is going to change anytime soon. Our only saving grace has been a little less heat in the past week but I am not sure it has helped that much given the very low humidity levels that have come with it. I am still using lip balm for heaven’s sake.

So here are a few things we can do to try to make it through this cruel season.

First, a good deep watering once a week beats the heck out of a brief sprinkling once a day. The reason is that a light watering will not soak in deeply and this conditions the plants to have shallow roots. A deeper moisture base will encourage them to root down and take advantage of greater moisture reserves. This also helps the plant to withstand drier spells when you can’t get to them. In the long run, it will reduce watering time and bills.

If you haven’t already put down mulch, now is a fine time. Most of the perennials are up so you won’t bury them and many weeds are either not yet up or are a good deal easier to pull than they will be later in the season. A layer of mulch is great for holding in soil moisture as it slows evaporation. Just be careful to not overdo and end up forming a barrier to rains. I usually do not do more than two inches. This will allow a few tough weeds through but you’ve got to do a little weeding, don’t you?

If you haven’t already heard many of us on here harp about it, please do not pile up mulch around tree trunks. That can lead to excessive wetness and disease to the trees.

Anemone blanda flower (David Streit)

I have to share another wild discovery in the garden this year. I spread about 5 tons of compost across my garden from the local organic farmer. Well, the manure content was noticeable from the smell and I worried about burning my plants so kept it from covering them. But what amazed me was that it seems to have fried nearly all of the weed seeds. That saved me a lot of time since I didn’t get around to mulching until two weeks later. I am not sure this is something that one can request, but it sure was a nice surprise and it will now happily fertilize the plants it was intended for.

I am also taking advantage of the drier weather to do some of my annual transplanting since soils are not wet and I don’t have to worry about compacting. This year it was 1) the camellia that had been overrun by the willow tree, 2) the mystery iris that was discovered in the lily patch and 3) the poor clematis that was getting no sun. Who thought that placement was a good idea? They like shady roots but the leaves like full sun, so be sure to position it behind plants that will allow that.

A final tip on the pruning front: I just learned if you prune the seed heads off of your crepe myrtles they will flower better but you need to do it right now. So look for me out there tomorrow!

David Streit grew up on a farm/ranch in Nebraska. Witness to severe weather of all varieties focused his career path. Degrees from the universities of Nebraska and Wisconsin prepared him to be a forecaster for Capital Weather Gang as well as his day job as COO of Commodity Weather Group.


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