OK, I get it. We need rain. Lots of rain. For days and days. It will undoubtedly happen, just not anytime soon. In the meantime, what are we supposed to do with our withering, dying, dried up and pitiful gardens? America’s favorite hobby just got a whole lot harder to take. Take a deep sigh- I have some ideas that might just help get you though this.
First things first. The plant material you should be most concerned about are newly planted trees and shrubs. They haven’t been in the ground long enough to push their roots deep into the soil. You might notice that the tips of the leaves look brown, crinkled and crumbly. That means that the water is being taken up through the tree, but it is drying out- the growth furthest from the roots suffer the most. You will probably lose those leaves, but if you run a slow drip or a soaker hose on the tree it will perk up. The same goes for shrubs. A few hours with a soaker hose or a slow drip is more beneficial than a 10 minute dousing with a spray nozzle.
This might sound cruel, but plants actually do better if you allow them to stress a little. If your tree, shrub or other plant material is wilted looking in the heat of the day, it might not need water. Hold that desire to water in the heat of the day and go back about 7pm to check on it. If it looks perkier, leave it alone and check it out in the morning. If it’s wilted in the morning, give it some water. Again, a slow trickle or soaker hose is best.
Annuals and Perennials that were planted recently are probably looking really crispy and wilted. They might even have some dead branches and withered flower heads. Simply trim any dead or dying flower heads. Doing this always makes me happy because the plant looks so much better. Plus, there’s less of the plant available for the amount of water it’s getting; cutting back will force more new growth. Give some extra water to anything that was planted in the past week or two. It only takes a day of this heat to kill something newly planted.
If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that your containers and hanging baskets are drying out in a matter of a few hours. The low humidity, heat, full sun and wind will take the water out of your containers quicker than you can say, “Oh *$#+! No one likes a potty mouth, water your containers and baskets early in the morning and again when they begin to droop. Since I am watering them much more frequently, I am fertilizing more often as well. I’ve gone from every other week to every week. Finally, some of your potted plants might be drying out because they have outgrown their containers. If you think this is the case, knock it out of the pot and look at the roots. If the roots are escaping through the drain hole, and you found more roots than soil, it time to repot. With minimal soil, there’s also minimal water holding capacity in the pot. When you do repot, purchase the potting mix with water retentive polymers. They’ll absorb the water, releasing it slowly as needed.
Maybe you just couldn’t keep on top of watering. The blooms on your Hydrangeas look burned. Brace yourself- they won’t recover with water. They will always have that crispy look. Grab your pruners and snip off the bloom heads. I know it’s hard to do because they were so stunning last month. You just might get lucky and get more blooms later in the summer. Plus, you won’t fall into a deep depression every time you look at them.
In closing, here are a few common sense tips to get through this drought. Water early in the day. Set sprinklers in the morning, as this is the most beneficial time to do it. If you have a sprinkler system, set it more often or for a longer run. Until last month, I was without a sprinkler system. I spent most days dragging a hose and sprinkler around my gardens. For my 35th anniversary/ 57th birthday/ Mother’s Day my husband gave me a sprinkler system. It might not be romantic, but I am sure glad it’s here. I have it running every day at 1am and my turf and flowerbeds look great. I might have to hand water portions of my gardens, but the time I spend doing it is minimal. Cut back any plants that have severely damaged limbs. Trim faded or dried up flowers. Pay extra attention to new plant material- you will probably have to water new material more frequently or at least until we have some signifagnt rain. Check your containers and baskets; you’ll probably need to water twice a day, early in the morning and later in the day. Repot overgrown plants- the extra soil will help hold moisture.
Someday we’ll have rain. And it won’t be so hot. But we will have another problem. The water bill. When you go to your mailbox and see that bill the memories of the “Drought of 2012” will flash before your eyes. Perhaps Missouri American water will take pity on us and offer some type of payment plan.