Hot, dry times call for extra plant care in Oklahoma

The hot dog days of summer have arrived and your plants, like your puppies and pets, depend on you for water and a little extra care and attention. Last week we had a long stretch of days at well over 100 degrees, some days even tougher with hot drying winds.. It is very important you walk your yard, observe the condition of your lawn, trees, shrubs, vegetables and flowers and provide adequate water to prevent wilting and extreme stress. Some of your plants would survive without extra water but might stop growing, will drop many leaves to get their water use in sync with water availability and might be slow to recover when we get to cooler temperatures this fall if they survive. Spending a little time observing your plants and soaking them when needed will keep your plants healthy, growing, and often flowering and fruiting in spite of the hot dry conditions.

Remember it is better to really soak your plants every few days rather than squirting them every day. Drip hoses or soaker hoses are a better way to water then overhead sprinklers. A mulch of 2” or deeper of cottonseed hulls, pecan hulls or bark like eucalyptus, pine, fir, oak or cedar will cut your water needs in half and keep the soil cooler and your plants happier. Remember that plants in hanging baskets and containers, especially smaller containers, with less soil will dry quicker so need more frequent watering, maybe every day at these temperatures. Sandy or loose soils will need watering more often than clay and loamy soils that will maintain moisture longer and require a little less watering.

 Happy, properly watered plants will be healthier and experience less insect and disease problems. We have much less fungus and disease problems in these hot dry conditions but this is the time of year we face the greatest insect pressure. Most insects hatch many more insects per batch and lay eggs or cycle much quicker at these temperatures so insect populations can appear to explode in our gardens. We are currently seeing lots of wooly leaf hoppers, spider mites, grasshoppers, hornworms and other worms and caterpillars in our vegetable gardens and on our ornamentals. We are seeing bagworms on junipers and webworms on many trees. Visit with your local nurseryman to select the proper control to apply to your plants if you are tired of sharing your crops with the worms and insects.  Now is the time to make like a fireman and soak your lawn and garden to keep everything healthy in these hot dry sauna conditions.

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