Summer is the season when our yards and plants need our human help the most. We have expanded the planting season over the decades as we moved from just seeds, cuttings, division and bare root plants to the ready availability of container grown trees, shrubs and plants that you can plant at most any season. Although we can start and transplant our chosen plants in many ways and sizes these days they still require water, especially during these hot, dry dehydrating days of summer. Some plants can’t take the intense heat and drying winds at all without extra life giving water and will perish in the extreme heat. Others can survive without extra water but will drop leaves and show marginal leaf burn as well as wilting as they try to “right size” to the available water. Most of the state was blessed with some great rejuvenating July rains earlier this week and it is amazing how our trees and plants perk up, look greener and happier after one of these refreshing rain events. My dad used to say that most any rain in Oklahoma in July or August is a very good thing. Water from the water hose may not be as refreshing as a good rain but it still can make the difference in not only survival but the ability of your plantings to actually grow, flower, fruit and look good in spite of our heat.

In this punishing phase of summer you need to observe your plants and water as needed. Deep rooted trees, shrubs, perennials and turf are often fine with the equivalent of an inch of rain per week and count on you for that rain if it does not fall naturally from the sky. Shallower rooted annuals, new plantings, hanging baskets and container gardens may need supplemental water every other day or even daily when we flirt with triple digit temperatures and may require up to 2 to four inches of rain equivalent water spread over the week. Remember smaller, shallow containers have less soil mass and can hold less water so they will dry out more quickly and more often. Plants in the sun will dry out more quickly than plants in the shade. Plants in windy areas will dry out more quickly than plants in secluded or protected areas. Plants in lighter weight soilless mixes will dry out more quickly than plants in heavy soils or loamy soils. Plants in containers or hanging baskets will dry out more quickly than plants grown in the ground. The flowerbeds I planted and mulched only need about half the hand watering compared to the similar flowerbeds nearby I never got around to mulching with a couple inch layer of bark or hull type mulch. Not only do the mulched beds need less extra watering but they have about eighty percent less weeds to pull and the weeds we do get are much easier to pull. If you are not mulching yet, please try out this garden practice and you will be mulching in all future summers. Mulching is an Oklahoma gardener’s best friend, especially in the summer time.

The last two weeks we have attended conventions in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio and have been overwhelmed with beautiful container gardens sporting an amazing variety of plants in both cities. Container gardening has grown every year in Oklahoma over the last decade but we are still way behind those cities where they decorate city streets, most every restaurant and many of the retailers and office buildings besides all the imaginative home and apartment decorative containers. These days you can express your inner artist or designer in the container you select to plant as well as the plants you plant in your decorative pots. Folks pot up everything from the thousands of choices in plastic containers to the beautiful Asian ceramic pottery, old shipping pallets, wheel barrows, wash tubs and other collectibles. You can still pot up great decorative containers just to decorate your home or business or to get ready for summer or fall parties and events. Remember the bigger the container, the easier it is to manage the soil moisture and the less watering is required.


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