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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: Your plants need special care in this hot, dry weather

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 12:01 am

Hot weather appears to be settling in before we are ready for it — and we haven't had much rain, so here are some reminders so our gardens do not dry up before they get a good start for the season:

Hot dry weather means ground moisture will quickly evaporate, so a few simple but needed precautions will help preserve moisture levels.

•Water early in the morning! I can't stress enough making this a priority.

Watering overhead at night will allow the water to set on the foliage of the plant and can invite fungal diseases and pests to attack the plants. On the other hand, watering in the morning allows the foliage to dry out over the day.

•Water at the ground level: Overhead sprinklers unless you allow them to run for a long time such as half an hour or so, will often only wet the surface and won't reach the roots of your plants.

•Adding mulch around the plants, even in your containers, will keep the soil moist and help you avoid having to water as often. This can be bagged mulch, weed-free straw, or leaf mold – even shredded paper or cardboard. Using mulch also cuts down on weeds.

•The makers of the weed preventer Preen now have mulch in a variety of colors that contains a pre-emergent herbicide that can be used on the vegetable garden and in flowerbeds. “One application of Preen Mulch will provide 6 months' control of broadleaf weeds and annual grasses in flower and ornamental beds.” (See product information at www.preen.com/ products/preen- mulch-plus).

•Remember if you are sowing seeds in your vegetable garden, do not use pre-emergent mulch or sprinkle a pre-emergent on the soil.

•If your soil has been amended with compost, manure and leaf mold it will hold the moisture for longer periods of time.

•Annuals and more shallow-rooted plants need at least 1 inch with each watering. In hot dry weather, you will need to water at least twice a week.

•Containers should be watered daily — sometimes more often if we have drying winds.

•For deep-rooted plants, it is important to soak the area to the root level. To know if you have watered sufficiently, dig down with your trowel and check to make sure it has reached the roots. Again, if the weather is hot and dry, this will also help you decide how often you need to water in a week.

•I am always seeing dead landscape plants and bedding plants that were only watered when the plant was put in the ground. It is always important to water often until the plant is established — maybe every day, then at least once or twice a week based on rainfall, winds and general weather conditions.

Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer.