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Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hot, dry, sunny — perfect for Brenda's Garden
 
"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."  ~Russel Baker

It's been so dry!  I have no sprinkler system and right now, I don't see the need of one. Unless you put it on at 2 a.m. (and maybe even not then), most of the water it sends out is going to be lost to evaporation.

For our hot dry summers, a soaker system is much more practical.  But even then, you're going to be watering the plants that don't need it along with those that do — unless you get one of those with the little poke-in drain sprouts, so you can only direct water to the wimpy plants.

It's a particularly hard summer here, I have to admit.  Usually around April we spend every weekend at the beach.  Then in June, we're down at our beloved-now-late-Bolivar Peninsula beachhouse until September.

This year, I'm here in Houston and wondering how in the world my plants survived for 40± years without me here to water.  I feel obliged now to water all the time, one area one night, the next are the next night and so on.

I'm tempted to tear out all the so-called-summer bloomers out except the plumbago, coralvine, lance-leaf coneflowers, duranta, dwarf crepes and golden cestrum.  Don't know some of these? 

Here they are:
Plumbago



Plumbago





Coralvine



Coralvine





Lanceleaf coneflower



Lanceleaf coneflower





Duranta



Duranta





Dwarf Crepe




Dwarf Crepe




Golden Cestrum



Golden Cestrum





Purslane



Purslane






As to shade plants, I am so impressed with ti plant and bleeding heart vine.  Neither seem to mind the heat and drought at all.
Bleeding Heart



Bleeding heart





Ti Plant



Ti plant





Do you have other plants you could add that are blooming and growing just fine in spite of the heat?

As we go deeper into summer, water rationing will probably get worse.  Here are few tips to help plants survive in spite of only occasional waterings:

1. Mulch.  A thick layer of mulch will help keep the soil cooler and more moist, conserving your precious water. 

2. Water only VERY early in the morning or very late at night, so you'll lose as little as possible to evaporation.  Laying the hose with a drip going close to a plan is the best way. 

3. Move potted plants into the shade so they'll dry out more slowly.

4. Repot container plants, using either a soil mix containing water-soluble polymers or adding your own.  Nurseries sell these (Soil-Moist and Agra-Soak are two brands among many).  These are crystals you put in a pot of water.  They swell up.  Mix them into the soil.  Or, cut up baby diapers or Kotex into small squares and mix these into the soil.  All the same thing.  They help hold water in a form the plant can access without keeping the roots too wet.

5. Install a drip irrigation system.  Newer ones have hoses that you can poke a little "faucet" into at the right intervals.  Don't automatically water plants that seem fine in spite if the drought.

6. Remember wilting in the evening is not always a sign of a need for water.  Wilting is a self-preservation technique.  Plants fold their leaves and let them drop downward so they will expose less surface which will lose moisture to evaporation.  Watch the plant.  If it's still wilted in the morning, it needs water.

7. It bears saying again: mulch, mulch, mulch!


Brenda Beust Smith
lazygardener@sbcglobal.net
http://blogs.chron.com/lazygardener
http://twitter.com/HoustonGrows
www.guidrynews.com (Features > Brenda's Garden)




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