Growing Wisdom

How to care for plants in the garden during dry weather conditions

The final few days of May will bring seasonably warm readings and the chance of some rain. After a very dry month, we desperately need a good soaking event. Drought continues to be an issue in most of southern New England and north through southern Maine. When it becomes this dry, there are some tactics you can take in order to help minimize plant loss.

Here are a few tips:

Newly planted things and transplants need regular water
If you look at the root ball of a tree, shrub, or perennial, especially those in containers, you will see that the roots are often tightly coiled in the shape of the container. While scoring these roots before planting is critical, you won’t be able to loosen them all. After planting, a good deal of the plant still needs to get its moisture and nutrients from those roots close to the center of the plant. Those roots have existing contact with the soil in the container, while the outer roots have been disturbed and are not able to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil as efficiently until the plant becomes established in its new home.

For this reason, be sure you are watering the existing root ball well. This means getting a soaker hose or other means of watering close to the center of the plant. Don’t over water, this can be even worse, but keep the soil evenly moist until the plant is established.

Transplant seedlings late in the day
Seedlings should be transplanted late in the day to avoid the heat of the afternoon and give them the overnight to become established. I soak my seedlings in a bucket of a fish solution fertilizer just prior to planting. This keeps them evenly moist as they go into the ground.

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Water early
Watering should be done in the morning if possible. Also, try to keep the leaves dry. This is impossible if you are using overhead watering, but if you can use soaker hoses, they do the job well. Of course lawns need sprinklers or irrigation, and while they do wet the grass, watering in the morning ensures the blades are dry by evening.

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Still time to plant
It’s absolutely not too late to plant vegetables this time of the year. Even though it’s past Memorial Day weekend, there is still plenty of time to get lots of vegetables into the garden. Things like cucumbers, basil, eggplant and peppers like the hotter weather of mid-summer, so waiting until early June isn’t a bad thing.

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