It’s official — we’re in a drought
Some of us in Livingston County have had rain showers, but officially we are now in moderate drought. We need to continue watering.
Perennials need to be watered when the leaves remain wilted in the morning, or if lower edges begin to brown or grow pale. It is normal for many plants to wilt in the heat of the day, it reduces their water loss by evaporation. You may wish to water more frequently than this, and the plants will be more lush. But it is a myth that all ornamental gardens need regular watering in the summer.
It can be surprisingly difficult to water pots thoroughly. Watering slowly is important, and use of a drip tray may allow some of the extra water to be absorbed later. I like to periodically place my pots in one of my seed-starting trays, filled with water, to enable full soil saturation.
My front garden is not within reach of a hose, so I choose many plants that do not usually require supplemental watering. It is a mostly full sun garden. It includes spring bulbs, Knock Out and Fairy roses, catmint (Nepeta Walker’s Low), daylilies, panicle type hydrangeas, scabiosa, coreopsis, and a lovely Tiger Eyes sumac, which will spread into sizeable real estate if I let it.
Instead, I remove the few suckers that emerge in the spring. As the pink and red roses wind down, Crocosmia, Heliopsis (a type of perennial sunflower), and agastache (hyssop) come into bloom, in fun colors for the hot summer days. Blanket flower (gallardia), Russian sage, and ornamental will also grow well without watering once established.
The various varieties of sedum (stonecrop) need very little water; the short varieties make great groundcover because they spread readily, but are easy to remove if they crowd into your plants.
Many additional water-wise plants are available through the High Country Gardens catalog, or you can search Garden Web Forums for drought tolerant plants, or you can ask for this type of plant at your local garden center.
These plants often demand good drainage, so if you have heavy clay, you may need to loosen it well with digging and organic matter. Shrubs have deeper root systems, and probably don’t need to be watered unless you see the signs described above.
Remember to maintain mulch covering your soil, in vegetable and ornamental gardens. It tends to decompose as the summer goes by, and it is easy to forget.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County for over ten years. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She works part-time as an occupational therapist with Finger Lakes DDSO.