Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Drought Defense:Three Smart Moves to Quench Your Garden's Thirst

Plus, beautiful, drought-tolerant, plants to grow, in your garden. No one, not even a Yardiac, can control rainfall and prevent a drought, but you can make a few smart moves, right now, to ensure that your garden will sail through dry spells looking healthy and vibrant. As an added bonus, you'll lighten your gardening chores at the same time. Yardiac Tip #1: Mulch your gardenTop the garden soil around your plants with a thick blanket of mulch. Mulch helps the soil hold moisture, and it also keeps weeds down. Shredded bark is a good choice for mulch in flower gardens; spoiled hay and compost work well in vegetable gardens. You can also use grass clippings as long as they haven't been chemically treated. Yardiac Tip #2: Water with soaker hoses or drip systemsSoaker hoses are made from recycled tires; turn them on and let them "sweat"! Just wind a soaker hose around the plants in your garden. When you turn the water on it will flow through the microscopic holes in the hose and slowly saturate the soil. For a double dose of drought protection, combine moves #1 and #2: install your soaker hose, then cover it with mulch to prevent moisture from evaporating. Today's drip irrigation systems are much more flexible and improved over the unwieldy, clog-prone models of the past. Drip systems are well suited for use in flower and vegetable beds; you can even use them to keep your containers watered while you're on vacation, or saturate newly planted saplings. Just add an automatic timer, and suddenly your watering chores are over. Yardiac Tip #3: Choose Prairie PlantsTrue to their roots, prairie plants (both domestic and wild forms) are proving to be tough, reliable garden performers that require little care to keep them in top form. What's more, these resilient American natives feel right at home wherever they're planted, whether that's a suburban garden in the Midwest or a brownstone in New York City. Plants such as black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower evolved where droughts are commonplace, so they're much more tolerant of dry spells than shrinking violets with ancestral roots in a rainy climates. Here's a brief overview of some fabulous prairie plants for your garden: Culver's root, Veronicastrum virginicum, is a four-foot-tall beauty with candelabra-like bloom spikes that don't require staking. Culver's root is available in white- and pink-flowering varieties. Hardy from Zones 3-9. Red milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, grows three to five feet tall and produces large, flat seed heads that bloom in pale pink to cherry rose. Butterflies adore them in late summer. Common butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is another native that butterflies enjoy. Both plants are tolerant of seaside conditions and are hardy from Zones 3-9. Yarrow has fuzzy leaves and bold, flat flower heads. The spectacular, reliable 'Coronation Gold' variety looks as good in a manicured garden as it does in a rustic, wild setting. Hardy from Zones 2-9. Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is a popular low-maintenance perennial that thrives even in light shade, and grows up to 40 inches tall. A white form, Echinacea purpurea 'Alba', is just as appealing to bees and butterflies as its purple cousin, but it's shorter and less likely to reseed itself each year. Both are hardy from Zones 3-9. Helen's flower, Helenium autumnale, picks up the slack when other garden flowers are fading. Blooming in shades of yellow, orange, maroon and copper, Helenium is a tough-as-nails native that grows about three feet tall and is an attractive companion plant for asters and chrysanthemums. Hardy from Zones 3-9. Prairie false indigo, Baptisia lactea, is a rugged, spring-blooming perennial that develops upright black stems with white, pea-like flowers. A blue form, Baptisia australis, is also available. Both are extremely pest- and disease-resistant and grow two to four feet tall. Hardy from Zones 3-9. Helianthus is the bright yellow sunflower you've seen growing wild along the roadsides in the Midwest. A top-performing hybrid is the double-flowered Helianthus multiflorus 'Flore-pleno'. This five-foot-tall giant is in nearly constant bloom July through September and makes excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. Hardy from Zones 4-10. Bee balm or monarda, Monarda didyma is a domestic garden staple that blooms in reds, pinks and purples. The blooms for both wild and domestic varieties are rounded and fringy, resembling fireworks opening and cascading back to earth. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love to visit these flowers. Hardy from Zones 3-9. Joe-pye weed, Eupatorium maculatum, grows five feet tall. The striking plant bears large flat reddish-purple flowers from July to September and is much relished by bees and butterflies. Hardy from Zones 2-8. Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, is likely the most popular native flower of all. This never-say-die perennial tolerates all sorts of neglect and keeps on blooming. Black-eyed Susans, including variety 'Goldsturm,' make long-lasting cut flowers, too. Hardy from Zones 3-8

1 comment:

Paul Alter said...

We recently planted 5 crepe myrtle trees. THey are about 6 - 7 feet tall and were in nursury buckets. They were planted by a very experienced landscape contracting crew and the soil in the area of the planting was completely changed to provide a rich top soil/natural mulch environment. We also insalled a soaker hose irrigation system to help these trees get started. They are beautiful and I want to be sure they thrive. It has been about 1 week and I notice that some of the leaves are turning yellow. Is this a result of too much or too little watter. Any advice on this would be appreciated. The trees are on the eastern end of Long Island on the east side of our house and they are exposed to good sun for about half the day. Thanks, Paul