Make time to enjoy the summer showers and sunsets

What a difference a year makes! Last year and the year before we were dealing with major droughts across Oklahoma and it was just downright hot and dry.  It seemed like we were having to get out the water hose or sprinklers every day or two to nurse our plants and yards through the punishing summer heat. This year we have been blessed with summer moisture beyond our wildest dreams, sometimes more than we can handle. We have had to supplement the natural rains with hoses and sprinklers only on occasions rather than on a regular schedule. Even now as we are heating up in the 90’s the humidity has been so high we don’t dry out as quickly. When the air is hot and dry it pulls moisture or dehydrates the soil and plants much quicker than during these current hot and moist conditions.

Our topsoil and subsoils had been so depleted of moisture the last two years that we had wondered how many years it would take to get back to reasonable levels. According to the Oklahoma Mesonet network with weather stations in all 77 countries, our topsoils are now replenished to good to excellent levels. Even our subsoils have mostly been recharged to good and excellent levels. If only our water aquifers could recharge that quickly but they take years, decades or centuries to replenish these important deep underground water reservoirs.

I live near lake Overholser and since late May I have gotten in the habit of visiting the dam several nights a week to walk, enjoy the amazing sunsets and watch the water levels from all these summer rains. The lake has been absolutely full to the top of the dam locks or to the rim of the lake bucket, as my nephew calls it, for several weeks. The last two years the lake had been many feet low and the city was buying water to add to the lake to meet our critical water needs. This year there has been at least one gate and often two or three gates on the dam open around the clock for over eight weeks releasing free water downstream that just won’t fit in the lake “bucket”. What a difference a year makes!

Making time to study and enjoy the beautiful sunsets the last couple of months relates a lot to our gardening experiences. When you stand on the east banks of the lake and watch the sun set on the west side of the lake across the water you quickly realize no two sunsets are alike. Depending on clouds, humidity and many other factors the good Lord paints a completely unique sunset each evening. The sunset painting or picture changes rapidly during each evening, never to be repeated exactly the same, particularly as the sun gets closer to the horizon. If you are snapping pictures of the beautiful evening light shows it is amazing how much it changes in just ten or thirty seconds and it can be a completely different show in a matter of minutes.

Our gardens work the same way in producing a constantly changing kaleidoscope of activity. Plants, grasses, trees and shrubs all grow, flowers come and go, fruit comes and goes. Bugs and diseases, rains and droughts, old age, lawnmowers and pruners reshape our plants as part of this constantly changing garden show. We may not notice the garden changes in seconds as with a sunset but the changes from day to day and week to week are significant. One of the real joys of gardening is to watch and enjoy the growth and changes in your yard and the individual plants on a daily or regular basis.

Sometimes we like something so well one year we try to plant it again and repeat the same show the next year. Sometimes it will be better and sometimes worse but rarely the same because the conditions every year are different. This year most of our plants have grown larger and are holding up better in early August because of our more moderate weather and the extra rains as long as you have well drained soils. Several of you have e-mailed to tell me you have your most vigorous tomatoes ever, covered in fruit while others have e-mailed that their tomatoes have struggled this year. The bragging folks are probably in sandy or sandy loam soils and they did not have water standing around their plants starving the roots of oxygen. The complaining folks are probably in clay or tight soils and likely suffered from poor drainage and a loss of a good oxygen/ moisture mix in the soil. 

Now that it has quit raining every day for a couple of weeks and warmed up we are transitioning from fungus and disease problems to insect problems. Be on the lookout for bagworms, mealy bugs, aphids, thrips and the like. We are warm enough now that you need to be watching for when to water. Applying a layer of bark or hulls natural mulch is almost always a good idea that is worth the time and effort. You can still plant container grown plant materials as long as you are prepared to water new plantings. Make time to get outside and work in the yard. It is good exercise for the body, food for the soul and it is fun and very rewarding to enjoy the constantly changing landscape.

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