Beyond watering, what can you do?

Hello Gardeners!

Although skies are overcast today, there is still no rain in my forecast for the next five days (then a glimmer of hope Thursday night). Many of my trees and shrubs look pretty toasty even in spite of supplemental (although sporadic) watering.

The University of Maryland Extension office is warning that trees and shrubs that are drought damaged now are at much higher risk for not making it through the winter. So try to get out and water twice a week if you can.

Since weather extremes like this are likely to become more common, I’ve started to think about some changes I’ll be making to my own landscape in the coming year.

1. MORE BERMS On my slopes, I’ll be incorporating more berms. They help slow down the flow of water during strong deluges (like we had so often this past spring) and help keep an area damp longer when water is scarce.

2. MAXIMIZE RAINBARREL STRATEGIES Yes, I have one, but I don’t have the outflow doing the most it could for my dry front bed. I’m going attach the outflow to a drip hose system designed for gravity-fed, “dirty” water (such as what comes from a roof rather than a tap). And I’ll install two more rainbarrels for the other two gutters, with similar drip systems.

3. IMPROVE SOIL CONDITION with more composted leaves as top dressing for most of my beds (except the all-perennial wildflower beds where the extra nitrogen would make them extra tall and floppy). Since compost helps clay soil to drain and sandy soil to hold water, it's a great soil improvement for most soil types. My sandy soil needs to hold moisture longer; composted leaves can definitely help. Shrubs and trees will all get a nice 1-2” top dressing of compost this fall and maybe again in spring.

4. REPLACEMENTS For those plants that don’t make it, I plan to replace with more drought tolerant species. If you missed the last post, you can find a list of native, drought tolerant perennials here.

I notice in my landscape that both New Jersey Tea (Ceonothus americanus)and Fothergilla 'Mt Airy' seem fine (see photo of Fothergilla'sspring bloom). Both are sailing through this drought without problems. Note that both are well established--all shrubs will need water during their establishment period.

Check out this link if you’re interested in a self-paced, online video course that will help you design and plant your own native fern garden..

Happy gardening!
Chris