Late summer tends to be an exceptionally dry time of year for many of us. It’s hard to believe that we can have near drought conditions in Maine, while in Texas they are suffering from horrific flooding from hurricane Harvey. Not to mention Irma right on it’s heels. Whether we are in a real drought or not, water conservation and drought tolerant plants should always be a part of our garden design.
Water Saving Tips
If all summer weather were ideal, we would have ample rain at night and endless, sunny warm days. We all know that doesn’t happen! We had a pretty wet, cool start to the growing season here in Maine but soon enough it turned very dry. Many plants in the garden are struggling to thrive.
What are some great ways to save water when it comes to the garden? If you ever grew up with a well that gets really low every year, you know how creative a family can get when conserving water. If you choose to water with a hose or sprinkler, remember to water deeply so you won’t have to water as often. Using soaker hoses in strategic places can be an efficient way to water. Some gardeners install irrigation systems designed to come on only when they want them to.
Consider saving water inside the house by placing a dishpan in the sink to catch any water left over from hand washing or cleaning off garden produce. Simply take the pan out to a thirsty plant when it’s full. Some folks have constructed rain barrels to collect water for the garden use.
When we had some rain the other night, we placed all of the potted porch plants on the lawn so they would be watered with rainwater. If you are planting any new shrubs or larger plants, form a berm around the base of the plant with soil. This way, you can fill the space with water gently for the plant to soak up the water gradually. The berm acts like a moat around a castle. Mulching your gardens will help to keep moisture in. Some useful mulches are bark mulch, grass clippings, chopped leaves or hay.
Some trusty favorites for perennial garden design are rudbeckia, echinacea and yarrow. For some real color, try gaillardia also known as blanket flower. Bees love it and it blooms right through the fall frosts. Perovskia or Russian sage is a woody plant with a crazy spray of lavender branches.
Sedums, whether short, tall and in between, thrive in dry conditions. Colors range from burgundy to yellow. With their succulent foliage and late summer flowers, members of the sedum family are a three season addition to any flower bed. The foliage comes in shades of green, blue and burgundy.
Asclepias or butterfly weed, is a wonderful garden perennial which comes in several varieties. With its showy pink, yellow or orange blossoms to its quirky seed pods, this plant offers continuous interest for the eyes. Butterflies, especially Monarchs and other pollinators flock to this bushy plant! It self seeds readily and is hardy to gardening zone 3.
Some other fantastic perennials for the drought tolerant garden include euphorbia, helenium, lychnis, ecinops or globe thistle and members of the towering perennial helianthus (sunflower) family. Try ornamental grasses like ‘Blue Fesque’. Most of these plant species offer late summer and early fall flowers. Perfect for those dry times in the garden. If drought tolerant perennials are dispersed throughout your landscape, late summer color will continue. Late blooming shrubs like hydrangeas and hardy hibiscus bushes such as Rose of Sharon put on a brilliant show this time of year. Flowering shrubs bring structural interest to the flower garden year round.
There’s nothing like dressing up a garden with sturdy annuals that seem to take care of themselves. Annuals such as cleome, tall verbena bonariensis and zinnias make a huge impact as perennials start to fade. In most cases, the more you cut, the more they flower.
Cosmos, marigolds and bright calendula seemingly do there own thing in the garden. Needing little more than some light dead-heading. Cosmos come in so many pretty varieties including ‘Double Click’ and ‘Cupcake’. Marigolds come in tall, medium and small varieties. The ‘Gem’ marigolds may be a solution if you are not a marigold fan. It has a tiny flower with a lemon scent. We have been using a light cream marigold called ‘Vanilla’ for a few years now. It looks great with purple. Prolific portulaca and nasturtiums also thrive in drought conditions.
For barrels or deck containers, try lantana, angelonia, mandevilla, sweet potato vine or salvia. Garden centers sell many foliage plants such as annual ornamental grasses that work well too. Remember the rule of thumb for container growing, use some plants that fill, some that spill and a few that thrill!
For most vegetables, water is required for production. We’ve probably all seen shrivled up cucumber and bean plants scorched by the summer heat. Most salad greens have gone to the compost bin by now unless they are particularly heat tolerant. Many things are holding there own like the copious amounts of tomatoes, carrots and leaks.
Some other veggies have needed continuous water. The squash, cucumbers and beans have really struggled. I’ve hand watered them as needed to save water instead of watering the entire garden.
For more ideas on sprucing things up this time of year go to Late Summer Flower Bed Care. For some choices for fall color in the garden, see my top picks in 5 Perennials For Fall Color. Remember, your garden is never beyond repair…usually!
This past week our new pup, Beau, has been learning all kinds of new things. Mostly pushing us to our limit! Or trying to attack my hostas! We’ve been taking him just about everywhere that we can for socializing. Our schedule is a little off because our son has started kindergarten. It seems impossible that this day has come. All of the usual anxieties are floating around in my brain. I’m sure I’ll settle into my new routine soon! Our garden is still producing but dry conditions have been slowing it down. I’m hoping this rain will get it through the next month or so. There is that familiar chill in the air in the morning and evening all of a sudden. Those warm fuzzy fall feelings are starting to creep in! Have a great gardening week everyone!