Greetings to our Gardening Friends!
Water! – all I can think about is water! We were so fortunate to receive a lot of snow in April, allowing many of us in the Denver Metro area communities to irrigate our gardens this year. But this heat! Not only am I wishing I could run through the sprinkler (darn! my irrigation is all by drip and soaker hoses), but I’m thinking that if this high heat in early June is the ‘new normal’, we are going to have to adapt our gardens and gardening practices to make the best use of our precious ‘blue gold’ – water. Here are a few tips for helping plants through this ‘trial by fire’.
- Mulch with a good organic mulch like fine wood chips, Soil Pep (a partially composted fine bark mulch) or with fine gravel, called ‘squeegee’. Water deeply, then apply mulch 2” to 4” thick. Organic mulches should not be in direct contact with the bark of trees or shrubs and should not be used around very xeric plants like Penstemons.
- Mix a little Quench in with the backfill of new plantings. Quench is an organic-based water absorbing gel made from cornstarch. It seems superior to other starch-based gels in that it will last 3 years instead of 6 months. It is also reported to absorb 500 times its weight in water and to be able to release that water better than the synthetic polymer products. It is fully biodegradable and non-toxic, and is said to be more effective than polymers in hanging baskets. We used it at about ½ strength, since we were planting xeric perennials such as Moon Carrot, Penstemon, Poppy, and many others.
- Inoculate the roots of new plantings with mycorrhizae. If possible, do this while you are planting, using Root Rally, Myke, ‘Age Old’ Soluble Mycorrhizae, Myco Apply, or Boomerang (all currently available at Harlequin’s Gardens). Last July and August, in the midst of the intense summer heatwave, we had amazing success with planting and establishing lots of new perennials in our Dry Slope display garden because we applied mycorrhizae to their roots and a little Quench (see below) to the backfill. Nearly all of these plants never missed a beat!
- Add Expanded Shale to your planting beds. Expanded shale is a product that is mined and fired just south of Boulder to create a porous, light ‘gravel’ that holds both water and air, and creates optimal housing for beneficial soil microorganisms. It helps water to penetrate tight clay soils – a real ‘clay-buster’! When creating a new planting bed in heavy clay soil, spread a 3” layer of expanded shale and a 4” layer of compost, and working them into the soil to a depth of 1’. Expanded shale does not break down, so it holds soil structure and reduces watering needs for a long time.
- Erect temporary shade and wind-blocks for newly-planted plants, and for prized plants that are in bloom. You can use row-cover fabric (often called ‘Reemay’, the trade name of one manufacturer), shade-cloth, or burlap. Any of these can be wrapped over Loop Hoops or home-made supports. We sell row cover fabric in 2 weights, and Loop Hoops. When using row cover fabric for this purpose, leave some open space rather than covering the hoops all the way to the ground. For vertical plants like trees and shrubs, you can improvise a shade and wind screen using bamboo poles and one of the aforementioned fabrics.
- Remove flowers/flower stalks or deadhead spent flowers promptly from new plantings. Plants use a great deal of energy to produce flowers, so if you can wait til next year when your plants are established and deeper-rooted, they may be better able to survive the heat this year.
- Plant in the evening after sunset or when your planting location is shaded for the remainder of the day.
- Make notes in your garden journal regarding plants that had trouble taking the heat and plan for relocating them in early spring next year or replacing them.
Your Xeriscape Garden can do double-duty by providing you not only with gorgeous color, textural interest, shade, and pollinator activity, but also with effective herbal remedies you can make yourself. We highly recommend the following class, given this Saturday by Leslie Lewis, a highly experienced and inspired herbalist and gardener. The plants in her stunning front yard were carefully chosen for their beauty, drought-tolerance and medicinal properties, and artfully arranged as well. Some of the plants and their herbal uses may be familiar to you, while others will be intriguing new discoveries.
You can still pre-register for the class by coming in to Harlequin’s Gardens before this Saturday, or by calling us at 303-939-9403. When you register we will give you the address and directions. It’s a 12 mile, 15 minute drive from Harlequin’s Gardens.
Saturday June 15, 10 am: MEDICINALS AS ORNAMENTALS in a XERISCAPE GARDEN. Join Leslie Lewis, herbalist and gardener par excellence for a detailed tour of her beautiful and successful low-water front yard in which most of the plants function both as colorful ornamentals and as medicinal herbs that she uses to make effective herbal home remedies. Be prepared to be surprised and learn a lot! Old-Town Longmont location. $15
SPECIAL OFFER !
Harlequin’s Gardens is offering students of this class a 10% discount off purchases of plants presented in the class, valid on Saturday June 15th only.
Look for our June 20/20 Sale Announcement next week, which will include detailed descriptions of the plants and products we will be offering at 20% discount on June 20th..
In the meantime, drink lots of water and try to stay cool!
Eve & Mikl Brawner and the staff at Harlequin’s Gardens