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Rodd Moesel: It's beginning to feel a lot like summer in the garden

Many plants like marigolds love the heat and do well at this time of year. [Metro Creative Connection]
Many plants like marigolds love the heat and do well at this time of year. [Metro Creative Connection]

It is beginning to feel more like summer as the sun intensifies, the days get longer and the day and night temperatures rise.

This doesn’t mean the end of planting for the season, it just means we have to be more diligent with our watering and mulching to help get new and existing plants acclimated and happy.

Many plants love the heat and do well at this time of year like okra, squash and cowpeas in the vegetable garden and annuals like periwinkle, zinnia, marigolds, penta, ornamental sweet potatoes, fibrous begonias and many more. Some are heavier drinkers and need more watering attention while some are more tolerant and don’t need watering as often.

The summer perennials make a big show at this time of year and include many varieties of salvia, daylilies, gaillardias, Shasta daisies, dianthus, Echinacea or cornflower, coreopsis, ajuga and many others. Some flowering shrubs love the long days and heat and put on their best show at this time of year, including the many varieties of hydrangeas, hardy hibiscus and soon the crape myrtles will be flowering all across Oklahoma.

You can actually plant all these colorful plants now, even as it heats up, as long as you commit to soaking your new plantings regularly and as needed with that miracle liquid known as water. Water not only can be the difference between life and death, but the difference between healthy, growing and happy plants and sickly, stressed and just-trying-to-survive plants.

The goal of watering is to soak well when you water and then to water as needed, depending on your soil type, sun exposure and location and plant demand. Generally we don’t want our plant roots standing in water as roots need a good mix of air and moisture. We also don’t want the plants getting so dry that they wilt and even start dropping leaves to reduce how much canopy they have to support.

We try to manage the moisture to a happy medium between standing in water and wilting from being dry. We can soften those water extremes and stretch out our time between watering by mulching the top of the soil in our flower beds or container gardens with a couple-inch layer of natural mulch. The most popular mulches in Oklahoma are bark mulches like Grade A Pacific cedar, aromatic Eastern cedar, oak hardwood mulch, pine bark or fir bark.

Other mulch choices include cottonseed hulls, pine straw, cocoa hulls and pecan hulls. These mulches give you a choice in colors, texture and ease of handling, but all will help moderate soil temperature and reduce weed pressure in addition to reducing the extra watering that is needed for your plantings.

There has been a surge in container gardening as more folks decorate their porches, patios and outdoor living areas. It is easier to manage the watering and plant care of larger container gardens as compared to small containers as they have more soil volume and the wet-dry cycles will not be as extreme on the all-important plant roots, which are the foundation of a happy plant.

Use a light well-drained soil in container gardens for best results, and you can still plant now to decorate for yourself or before visits by family and friends. Container gardens give you a chance to add excitement and a splash of color in a hurry, to dress up your yard or home.

Rodd Moesel serves as president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau and was inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. Email garden and landscape questions to rmoesel@americanplant.com.

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