Don’t Say Drought – 2010/05/24

What a beautiful long weekend that was. The sun was shining and the temperature was about as close to perfect as you can get. There was hardly a cloud in sight and the scents of lilac, lily of the valley, and coconut sunscreen was in the air. This is shaping up to be a wonderful summer for people.

The heat and sunshine are going to help your plants reach their full potential. Last year’s lack of any real summer meant a lot of plants, especially annuals, didn’t really do what they were supposed to do. I know of one person who had a good tomato crop last year and if you’ve been to an Uxbridge Horticultural Society meeting, you know that everything grows for Bob.

It’s been said a million times that the best results in a garden come from the best preparation of the garden. Good soil from the start means happier plants and a lot less work down the line. This year’s expected hot, dry summer means watering is going to be an issue in your gardens, and preparation will save you a lot of time, money and water.

Mulch is flying out of the garden centre, and with good reason. Two to four inches of mulch in your garden means the soil dries out significantly slower, which means less watering for you. Getting a head start on mulching and watering means healthier plants that will be better able to weather the storm (or lack of storm I suppose is more correct). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with a watering ban at some point, or at the least, watering restrictions.

The same goes for your lawn. Grass is, after all, a plant. The healthier it is going into a drought (I was really trying not to use that word) the more capable it is of dealing with it. If you’re seeding your lawn, use a shade mixture of grass seed. It contains a higher percentage of fescue which is much more drought tolerant than Kentucky blue grass. I lived in Louisville (pronounced Loo-uh-vul by the way) for a few years and drought wasn’t usually an issue.

People always ask “Which mulch is better for my garden, chips or shredded?” Both are just as good. Both keep the moisture in and both inhibit the spread of weeds by making it more difficult for seeds to germinate. I would exercise caution using cocoa mulch, however. It can be toxic to dogs and smells very tempting to them. Me too, for that matter. Before I knew of it’s potential problem, I used cocoa mulch on a hedge of Hydrangeas and after finishing, had to have a chocolate bar. Okay, I had two – just don’t tell my dentist. I should mention that putting mulch on top of existing weeds won’t kill them, it makes them healthier just like all of your other perennials.

When it comes to watering, more water but less often is the best course to take. I will water a garden for a couple of hours, but only once a week. Frequent, but shallow, watering makes the roots of your plants come up to the soil to get the water, rather than growing downwards. Watering in the morning means less evaporation and less waste of water. It’s also better for your plants, especially if you water by a sprinkler or overhead by hand. The plant’s leaves will dry during the day, significantly reducing the chance of fungi growing. Watering in the evening is a great way to ensure that your Phlox gets powdery mildew and your roses get black spot. I know a lot of people don’t have time in the mornings, but if you set your sprinkler up the night before, then turn it on as soon as you get up, you can usually get your watering done with very little inconvenience. You’ll also give your neighbours a happy start to their day as they watch you tiptoeing through the dewy grass in your housecoat or boxers, then trying to avoid the sprinkler which is always pointed directly at the spot where you turn it on.

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About johnsgarden

I have a garden centre which operates out of my home in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada I write columns for a local paper, which I will include here
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