GARDEN PHYLLISOPHY – August 2012

gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

It’s been hot and extremely dry in my garden and I must be careful not to use too much water since the water comes from a well which can be depleted and the water pressure decreased from overuse. I never water the lawn. As a result, the lack of rain has caused what is usually beautiful, emerald green grass to turn brown in patches. It looks bad! What is flourishing, even without water, are the weeds and powdery mildew on the leaves of the phlox plants. There are no flowers on them. I didn’t have any flowers on the lilacs this spring. Was it because of that late frost? The peonies were not as showy as they usually have been. The huge rhododendron, in front of the house, had hardly any blooms. Was that also caused by the unseasonal frost?

This morning, July 15th, I watered all the beds, in spite of the promise of rain for today. I just didn’t believe it would happen, but of course, no sooner did I finish watering and wound up the hoses, when the sky opened up. Rain! Now is an excellent time for weeding and deadheading but I’d much rather stay in the cooled-down house and read the last chapter of the very exciting book by local author, John Verdon, Think of a Number. It’s a real page-turner!

Coreopsis always seems to be dependable, and in spite of the lack of water, the ferny foliage is spreading and the bright, yellow flowers are opening all over.

Some vegetables are more water-efficient than others, like beets, carrots, lettuce and other greens, onions and turnips. A single corn plant will use fifty-four gallons of water during the season and produce only two ears of corn… not very efficient.

Drip irrigation, using a soaker hose, is a good way of watering without wasting water, especially if you plant wide rows, at least a foot wide, with soaker hoses placed directly on the seed beds, eliminating the watering of the walkways. (Why didn’t I do this research before I planted my garden?)

Some plants act as insect repellents. Garlic, onions and chives keep insects away and enhance the flavor of surrounding plants. Roses have less black spot when planted with onions. Parsley reduces aphids on asparagus and tomatoes. Marigolds repel nematode insects when planted around tomatoes and eggplant.

Soil, rich in nutrients and organic matter, retains moisture and will be more productive in dry weather. Mulching reduces the weed population. Any weeds that do appear usually can be easily pulled, as their roots are poorly anchored. It also keeps the soil cooler on hot days, which means less moisture loss by evaporation and keeps it warmer on cool nights, which speeds growth. It allows water to seep into soil slowly and prevents crusting. Commonly used mulches can be composed of organic or inorganic materials. Black plastic sheeting and landscape fabric are common inorganic mulches. Organic mulches include straw, hay, peat moss, crushed leaves, pine needles, wood bark and shredded newspaper. Organic mulches also add nutrients to the soil and at the end of the season can be tilled under.

Herbs are a good dry-season crop because most originated from the hot, dry Mediterranean area.

Now that you have all this information concerning dry weather gardening, it will surely rain. ~