I’d like to welcome you to Chesapeake Garden, a weekly blog about plants, gardening and the world around us. I am hoping you will find my ramblings to be informative, interesting and maybe a little irreverent. I have been a plant lover my whole life. From growing vegetables with my family, to taking trips to The National Arboretum, to learning all I could about edible and poisonous native plants – my life has revolved around plants. More than thirty years of my life have been spent as a professional Horticulturist and I just don’t know where the time went. It’s like I just wandered off the well-marked path to look at some interesting trees (something I’m known to do) for a few minutes and here I am decades later, still learning all I can about the plants around us (and still wandering off the path into the woods as often as I can). Well – enough of that! Let’s get this party started.
It is currently mid-summer here in Anne Arundel County, that means both the weather and the crabs are hot and steamy. Most days just breathing causes you to sweat and the relief from the thunderstorms only lasts until the sun comes out and turns the rain into a steam bath. We have had a strange year so far weather-wise. A long, deep cold period in late winter delayed many of our spring plants and damaged many others. If you are wondering why so many of the Crape Myrtles look half dead this year, late winter cold weather is to blame. Our late spring was very wet with some areas experiencing rain of historic proportions (Ellicott City may never be the same). And then just to show that the weather in this area is completely perverse the rain stopped, and the temperature soared, baking the ground as hard as pavement and stressing our plants severely. Now the tap is turned back on and it looks like it may rain for a week straight. To quote Rafiki from the Lion King “the weather, very peculiar”. Peculiar indeed. As a person who spends a good portion of my life outdoors I will tell you that this “very peculiar” weather is to be expected in a region that experiences four true seasons. I am often reminded of the old saw “If you don’t like the weather in Maryland, just wait five minutes”.
So how do you help your beloved weather stressed plants in this bizarre weather? In a word, water. I know you know that already, but here is the secret gleaned from many years of experience; you are probably watering your plants wrong. I don’t mean this as an accusation I am only trying to help. Just answer this one question. Do you have a spray nozzle or anything that requires you to squeeze a handle at the end of your hose? If so, then you are certainly watering your plants wrong. Just look around at the Garden Center, you will notice that all our hoses have a “water breaker” on the end. These “water breakers” are designed to deliver the full volume of water from the hose at very low pressure (for those of you who are already using a “water breaker” you may skip to the last paragraph). By comparison most “sprayers” (yes even the ones that have several settings including “shower”) are designed to provide low volume but high-pressure water, just the opposite of what you want. In fact, most “water breakers” provide ten times the volume of other types of nozzles in the same amount of time. This means that while I am watering my plants at a rate of five gallons per minute, you may be only providing half a gallon to yours all the while wondering why you are spending so much time watering without the plants looking any better. When it is hot and dry, newly planted and any plants showing signs of stress (wilting, dropping leaves) need five gallons of water per week, preferably in two waterings, three or four days apart. Trees and larger shrubs may need several times this amount. This means if you use your nozzle to water ten newly planted shrubs you may have to spend an hour watering twice a week. Who has that kind of time? Just get a water breaker and spend one minute per shrub and you will be good.
Next week I promise to talk about plants. I will feature one of our great native perennials -Hibiscus moscheutos. Talk to you next week and in the meantime try to keep cool and dry.