ANITA STONE: Summer's Hottest Selections
Bring on the heat. These plants are ready!
Summer will be here again before we know it. It's always a challenge to decide what to grow that can take the summer heat, as well as deal with the drought, which seems to be a lasting situation. Please consider these plants when making your selections.
It seems as though gardeners have become one of the prime targets in water conservation. If we try hard enough, we can prove that water conservation is simply a matter of re-training ourselves not only to help the environment, but also to promote plant growth by learning to be selective. It is timely that we begin to rethink and to plan an alternative design across the landscape.
After much research, I have discovered several plants that meet the water conservation criteria. Much to my surprise, several of them are already popular with most of us. Most of these plants can be viewed on the Internet. You can also check with your local nurseries and talk to someone who is familiar with the specific plants. Even some of the big box companies are currently training their employees to become familiar with horticultural demands.
I would be aware of generalized statements such as, "I think this will work well for you," or "this plant might be heat-tolerant." Watch for the words, "think" and "might be." And if you don't feel comfortable with any suggested solution, follow your gardening instincts and reexamine any suggestions for the landscape.
Water conservation does not mean planting a cactus and rock garden. It means using common sense landscaping to protect water quantity. Xeriscape landscapes can be green, cool and filled with beautiful native plants maintained with water-efficient practices such as rain gardens.
To save water, plan and design, use mulches, get a soil analysis, and above all select appropriate plants such as popular ornamental grasses, groundcovers, shrubs, trees and water-saving natives. Your county extension office can always assist you when you have landscape questions and wish to modify plant and ground materials.
To increase plant health and conserve water, add a lot of organic matter. This will assist the soil's ability to absorb and store water in a form available to plants. Generally, it is best to till in about six inches of organics such as peat, rice hulls or shredded pine bark. For trees, however, it is not necessary to incorporate this type of matter.
For turfgrass, frequent watering is more necessary than for most other plants. So, carefully select grass according to the maintenance requirements. Grasses that use less water are Zoysia and centipede. Drip irrigation offers better watering efficiency as opposed to sprinkler irrigation because drip slowly applies water to the soil and has little chance of waste through evaporation or runoff. Sufficient irrigation not only conserves water, but also enables you to save up to 50 percent on your water bill.
Mulch is excellent organic material. But be aware that sheet plastic is not a moisture saver. Mulch conserves water by reducing moisture evaporation from the soil while reducing weed populations, preventing soil compaction and keeping soil temperatures moderate.
Mowing grass at the proper height conserves water. For Bermuda, mow at one inch; for centipede and Zoysia mow at two inches and for St. Augustine, mow at three inches.
Plants can be divided into two categories -- flowering and non-flowering. Some of the flowering plants that tolerate heat well are crossandra, impatiens, marigold, New Guinea impatiens, pentas, scaevola and vinca.
If you wish to plant some nonflowering crops in the yard, try caladium, coleus, colocasia, euphorbia and sedum.
There are several other plants, but this will get you started. Simply keep in mind that water conservation is a problem that affects everyone. As gardeners we can pitch in and share our knowledge to beautify the landscape efficiently by practicing methods of conservation.
Contact freelance writer Anita Stone at email@example.com.
More like this story