Be careful with plants through drought conditions
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jun 27, 2012 | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
About all the gardening you can do in a long dry spell, or drought, is to keep plants and grass alive. It is important, however, how you go about watering if you want to accomplish this.

Consider watering your lawn first. If you aren’t able to thoroughly water, such as in the case of a large lawn, it’s better not to water at all. It takes a long time to thoroughly water grass and a lot of water. The roots will save most grass unless the drought is prolonged.

During this dry weather, try not to mow at all and if you feel you have to mow, set the mower up to about three inches.

As for your perennial gardens, which includes roses, you absolutely must water if you want them to live. Water enough that you can stick a shovel down several inches and see how deep the water went. Light sprinkling is also harder on the perennials than no water. Good mulching is a must in dry weather.

Shrubs must be watered as well. They should have all the grass pulled from around them and they also must have at least two inches of mulch to keep the soil from baking and cracking. It’s a good idea to lay the hose down at the base of shrubs and let it run while you do something else.

The same goes for young trees. They simply won’t survive their first hot summer without plenty of water. Remember, pull all the grass from around little trees and mulch them well.

As for watering large trees, you should water as far as the shade goes because that’s how far the roots go. For large trees, a soaker hose is best. For large and small trees, don’t let the mulch touch the bark because that causes insects to get under the bark and that will eventually kill the tree.

When plants are most vulnerable to attack by disease and insects is when they are suffering through this hot, dry weather. That includes all your perennials, even roses, and shrubs and trees. So watering is important if you want to save your plants.

During this stressful dry weather, it’s more important than ever to keep weeds of your flower beds. They seem to just take over while you are concentrating on keeping everything moist.

From now until the last of August is the ideal time to start little roses under a fruit jar. It is so simple and so much fun. The easiest to start this way are the tough miniature roses and the old fashioned ones. But all of them will work well. First enrich the soil where you want to put your little “nursery” or if you have really rich soil, that will do.

If you have compost and some really old manure, add some to the area. Take cuttings by pulling a stem downward leaving the heel on the stem. That is where the roots will start. Leave the cutting in water for two or three days. Then roll about three inches of the stem in rooting compound. One brand is “Rootone”. You can leave the rooting compound off if you wish and it will still work most likely. Make an impression in the prepared spot with a shovel down about 8 inches and fill it full of water and after it has soaked up, put the stem in the hole, being careful not to rub off the rooting compound.

Press the soil together and cover with a quart or half gallon jar. Surround the jar with bricks or large rocks so the jar won’t get knocked over during the winter. If all goes well, in spring you will have fine little roses. Raise the jar just a bit and put a small rock under one side when the weather warms up in spring. When all danger of frost is past, remove the jar and behold your new rose. Don’t move the baby rose for at least a year. It is best to have your little nursery in partial shade and near a water supply so you can keep it moist all summer and fall. You can place your starter jars within a foot of each other to make it easier to water. I like to start at least three of each kind of rose to guarantee that at least one will survive.

I have seen Ma start a little rose wherever she wanted it to grow in the garden or yard and just forget about it except for an occasional watering but Ma had a true green thumb. I have also seen her visit a friend in the country and when Ma was leaving, the friend would give her a bouquet of roses. Ma would go home and use one or two of the roses to put under jars to start herself some.

Writing this column was difficult for me today because I lost my darling old dachound, Dolly, yesterday. She was suffering so from arthritis and was almost blind and the pain medicine just finally didn’t help so I had no choice. I feel like I have lost my best friend. I still have a Chihuahua for company but I miss my sweet Dolly and it was doubly hard because she was my husband’s dog. Loving pets comes with the pain of losing them but, in the long run, it was well worth it to have Dolly for those years.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. Thank you for your calls.
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