In The Garden: Stay-Cool Gardening
Whether you follow the farmers’ almanac, the pundits of global warming, or listen to the long range forecast, this summer is bound to be a hot one. So, the burning question is, “How do you enjoy a great-looking garden in the heat?”
You can train plants to expect water only when the soil around their roots dries to three to five centimetres below the surface of the soil. Of course the amount will vary from plant to plant, but the point is that if you water your garden a little bit at a time, the roots stay up near the surface of the soil and wait for you to stand at the end of your hose each evening. It may be water therapy for you, but its bad training for your plants. This rule is equally true for perennials, annuals, veggies, and even the shrubs and trees on your property – not to mention your lawn.
Plants that are watered infrequently, and deeply, will send down roots in search of moisture as the temperature rises, and the timing between summer rainfalls stretches from days into weeks.
Don’t water your lawn at all in a drought situation. Save yourself the time, expense and the resources that are required to cut your lawn when its actively growing. Yes, it will become brown and dormant, but it will not die. Dormant is the equivalent of sleeping.
Come mid-August your lawn will wake up as days get shorter, evening temperatures fall and the morning dew increases. This is the reason why every sod grower in the province (and there are many) sow their seeds for the next crop between the middle of August and the end of September.
Trees need water too – more so when you think back to the weeks of below normal rain fall that we experienced last summer. Apply water to the root zone of both young and mature trees by placing a hose at the base of the tree with just a trickle of water coming out. Leave it there for three to four hours.
If you have trees on your property that were planted within the last three years, watering them is critical at this time of year. A mature, 20-metre-high maple tree transpires more than 500 litres of water on a hot day, so its important to get water down to its roots. The tree that grows on the boulevard also needs water. Even though it may be owned by the municipality, consider it your responsibility and give it healthy drink.
THE MIRACLE OF MULCH
A six- to eight-centimetre layer of finely ground cedar or pine bark insulates the soil from the drying effects of the sun and the wind. This layer of mulch can reduce the need for water by up to 70 per cent, and is one of the best monetary, and timesaving, investments that you can make for your garden.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com