Summer showers boost flowers
We were getting very dry across Oklahoma and then this last week provided several really nice, thirst-quenching and cooling rains to moderate the official start of summer.
Most of our vegetables and color annuals really respond well to the cooler night temperatures and the refreshing rains. The hot, dry conditions were starting to stress our lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers before these natural energy drinks arrived for the plant world.
We are already seeing new growth and a fresh round of flowers on many of our plants as we are reminded of the importance and power of water to sustain and grow our plants. When we don’t get adequate or properly spaced rains, then we humans must pull out the water hoses, sprinklers or automatic watering systems to provide the life-sustaining, stress-relieving and growth-inducing magic of water.
In the summer months, we gardeners have extra responsibilities to walk our yard and watch for plants that are wilting or under stress and then step up and help with supplemental water when needed. Remember, you can reduce watering needs by mulching around your vegetables, flowers and decorative containers with a couple-inch thick layer of mulch like fir, pine, oak, cedar or cypress bark, cottonseed hulls, pine straw, cocoa hulls or other natural mulches to reduce surface evaporation.
As a bonus this thick mat of mulch will cool the soil and dramatically reduce weed pressure. Pulling weeds is important to reduce the competition for water and fertilizer but it is one of most folk’s least favorite gardening activities. Mulching after you have the weeds pulled and cleaned out of a bed or container will really reduce your future weed population.
Some seasonal garden centers have wound down for the season but many growers and garden centers have continued planting new crops to make sure that there is a good supply of annuals and perennials still available to folks just getting time to garden, anxious to add a new garden or who want to decorate for upcoming events. The selection may not be as extensive as earlier in the planting season but there are still lots of good choices for planting now. In addition to the smaller and younger transplants that dominate early planting, many growers and garden centers have a good selection of larger plants already showing color if you would like to make a quick impact.
In addition to planting new flowerbeds or adding pizzazz to existing flowerbeds, you can make an immediate impact with container gardens. Lots of summer planting is done in large decorative containers to add to porches, patios, along sidewalks or even rising up from flowerbeds. Container gardening allows you to make a design statement with the color and type of container as well as the plants you select to grow in the container.
Use a light, well draining soil mix for best results and remember the larger the container the longer it can go between watering. Smaller containers have less water-holding capacity and, therefore, will dry out faster and will require hand watering more often. You can plant an individual plant of one variety or a combination of different plants in a container to make the design statement you desire. We are blessed with many colorful plants that love the heat.
This is the season when we get more pest problems as it heats up. Be observant and watch for bagworms on needle evergreens, worms on your vegetables, red spider mites or any damage that might indicate an insect problem. If you have a problem you don’t recognize, put a sample in a paper bag and take it to your local garden center or nursery for help in identifying and figuring out your options to solve the problem.
Enjoy time in your garden, keep planting away and don’t forget to water and mulch your plants.
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 email@example.com.