Sunday, June 26, 2011

Water Wise

We had a very dry May and June and I finally had a little relief last week from dragging my hoses all over the yard to keep my garden/yard alive! I recorded 2.5” of rain in 2 days after a really dry spring. Hot, dry summer months are stressful times for plants in the landscape. Without proper moisture, plants cannot grow normally and can become inclined to other stresses like bugs and diseases. It is important to water plants so they develop deep roots. Daily watering can promote shallow roots making it hard for a plant to survive a hot dry summer.

During a drought I worry first about my Trees and shrubs, which are harder and more expensive to replace. The best time to water is in the early morning, when there is less evaporation. It is best to water these in the root area where it will sink in to be taken in by the roots.

After I’m sure my trees and shrubs are cared for I look at the lawn, which can also be expensive to replace if it succumbs to the drought. You have two choices during long, dry, hot summers: Water the grass to keep it green or don't water and let it turn brown and go dormant.

If you decide to keep it green then first determine that your lawn is really dry. Some clues are: Foot printing: Walk across your lawn. If your footprints remain in the grass very long, the lawn is dry. Color test: When a lawn is dry a long time, it will have a bluish-gray cast. Watering brings back the color.
Check leaves: Dry grass responds by wilting, rolling or folding the leaves.

Apply about an inch of water when you determine your yard is dry. This amount should moisten the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Runoff is a problem in my front yard so I apply half and let it soak in before applying more water. I try to water early in the morning but don’t have Irrigation timers. If you have a timer it should be set to water the lawn between 4 and 6 am. Water only as needed. Watering daily can be harmful and encourages shallow roots making the grass less drought tolerant.

Use mulch to decrease evaporation of water from the soil around plant and trees. It will also lower soil temperatures and reduce competition from weeds for water.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Enjoying all my work!

Sometimes I’m so busy caring for my garden I forget to enjoy it…but last night it was so nice with temperatures in the mid-80’s and a nice cool breeze I decided to spend some time after dinner on the garden swing admiring the flowers and watching the birds. My two Labs Maggie and Lucy and several birds including House Finches, Grackles, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, and Eastern Bluebird joined me. A Mockingbird also stopped by to pick a blueberry and then flew off. Luckily I planted the blueberries in my yard for fruit loving birds when I was planned my garden to provide food for wildlife. If the birds don’t find the berries I harvest them. This morning as I was watering my potted plants I also took a few minutes to enjoy the flowering plants in the garden. I hope you take a few minutes to enjoy your garden and all it attracts this time of year!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Plants Blooming in June

Now blooming in my June gardens:

Butterfly weed
Chaste Tree
Crepe Myrtle
Garden Phlox
Queen Anne’s Lace
Rose Mallow
Sage, Pineapple & Russian
Salvia, blue & red
Water Lily

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Curbside Plantings

What do you have planted in that area between the street and the sidewalk? Most people have no idea what to do with that little strip of grass and usually leave it alone because it can be a difficult spot to make attractive. Before getting started on your design remember to contact your city and utility companies and HOA to find out what can and can’t be planted in this area.
My HOA won’t allow me to plant the whole strip between the street and the sidewalk but I was able to a small portion near the mailbox.

· Plant selections- Look for plants that are durable and look good with minimal care. Aim for 80% of the plants to have some winter interest to keep the area looking good year round. Use the remaining 20% to embellish with seasonal flowers.
· Plant in layers- Start your design with several short shrubs or grasses that won’t block visibility. Next find an evergreen groundcover to help cover the ground and keep out weeds. Now add flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals. Choose varieties that don’t need constant deadheading or dividing. A few ideas: black-eyed Susans, sedums, Russian sage and purple coneflower. All these tolerate hot, dry conditions once established.

Some design tips:

1. If you have a privacy fence or retaining wall Create a “Walk Through” Garden by growing plants on both sides of the sidewalk. If you don’t have a privacy fence along the walk, choose a few plants for your curbside garden that tie it to the rest of your front yard or foundations plantings.
2. Remember Accidents Do Happen. It’s inevitable that people will step into the beds. Choose plants that can take some abuse, like tall sedum. If they get damaged they’ll quickly bounce back.
3. People Will Always Take The Most Direct Route so let them by including several narrow paths or stepping-stones so they can walk through the garden instead of having to walk all the way around. Remember to keep tree branches trimmed high enough so people don’t have to duck.
4. Don’t Block The View of drivers or pedestrians especially at intersections. You can figure this out by driving your car along the area you want to landscape and look around. Then park, get out and walk along the sidewalk to determine how tall the plants can be.
5. While Your Car Is Parked along the curb, open the passenger door to help you figure out how far to set plants back from the street so visitors don’t have to step directly into your perennials. This distance is usually a foot but wider is better. A border of bricks or a few stepping stones show visitors where to step.
6. Use Separate Soaker Hoses in each bed so you don’t have them stretched across paths where they can trip people. When you attach soakers to the house clearly mark the location where they cross the sidewalk. Cover the hoses in the beds with mulch so they don’t show.

Durable shrubs: Althea, Hollies, Spirea, Abelia, Flowering Quince, Forsythia, and Shrub Roses
Tolerant small trees: Crepe Myrtle, Grancy Greybeard, Redbud, Serviceberry, Smoke Tree, Spicebush, Witch-Hazel
Enduring Annuals : Celosia, Dusty Miller, Coleus, Gomphrena, Moss Rose, Sweet Potato, and Zinnia
Hearty Perennials: Daisy, Goldenrod, Hellebore, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Salvia, Aster, Daylily

For more plant suggestions check out: “Some Like It Hot” Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather by P.J. Gartin, “Tough Plants for Southern Gardens” by Felder Rushing and “The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide” by Toby Bost & Jim Wilson

Before photo was taken Oct. 2008, After photo taken April 2009