Hot Weather Gardening: Landscape Design Tips

Posted on Jul 24, 2014 in Design | No Comments

It’s been HOT here lately! With temperatures in the upper 90s, and nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below the mid- 60s last week, we noticed drooping plants everywhere. The dog days of summer don’t mean it’s time to give up your garden. With a little extra care and planning, you can learn the tricks to hot weather gardening and keep your landscape verdant through the heat.

Key to Hot Weather Gardening: Water Well, Water Deeply

Like people, plants needs lots of extra water in hot weather — particularly in their first three years after planting, while they are still getting established. Watering your plants in times of heat and drought might seem like a no brainer, but believe it or not, there’s an art to watering. Here are a few of the ways that we ensure our thirsty gardens get what they need this time of year

Drought Resistant Grasses by Pistils Landscape Design

Deep watering is essential in times of heat and drought.

1 – Plants want a long, deep soaking, not a quick spritz with the hose. Remember those roots go far below the surface of the dirt, and so you need the water to soak through all those inches (or feet) of soil to get to the roots. A new tree would like 10-15 gallons of water each week. Smaller perennials would like a few gallons each.

The average home garden hose delivers about 5 gallons per minute — so really spend at least 30 seconds to a minute on all your big plants every time you water them, and water them at least every other day. Recite poetry, sing songs, whatever it takes to keep yourself focused on giving each plant sufficient water to survive hot spells and thrive.

2 – Concentrate on getting the soil soaked, and try not to water the leaves more than you have to. Plants don’t absorb water through their leaves. In fact, process of osmosis can leave the plants more dehydrated if you water their leaves. Also, many plants are susceptible to burning from the hot sun when their leaves get wet, which mars them with brown, dry spots.

3 – Water in the early morning or late evening. This is the easiest time for the plant to take up the water — when it’s not being stressed by hot sun — and it’s the most efficient, since minimal water will be evaporated during these times of day.

If you can swing it installing a home irrigation system to automatically water your garden allows you to reap the benefits of a beautiful landscape with less labor. You can go out of town for the weekend or forget to water new plants for a few days and they’ll be less vulnerable to extreme heat.

Plant Appropriate Specimens

Pistils Landscape Design Succulent Planter

Succulents in a custom steel planter by Pistils Landscape Design

Succulents in a custom steel planter at by Pistils Landscape Design[/caption]While all plants need watering and TLC during their first years, as they get established in their new locations, some plants are better suited to dry, low-water summers than others are. Pacific Northwest natives are good candidates — these are plants that thrive in our wet winters and dry summers without a lot of coddling. Some Pistils favorites include evergreen huckleberries, dwarf eucalyptus, ceanothus ‘dark star’ and native sedge grasses, all of which you can find at Pistils.

Another popular planting trend is called Xeriscaping (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping). Also known as drought-tolerant landscapes, this style focuses on designs that do not require supplemental watering. Xeriscaping plants have very low water requirements once established. We carry a great array of these grasses and other xeriscape material from Xera nursery, here in Portland. Our designers love: any and all sedum, manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’, and agastache (giant hyssop).

We have a few favorite plant palettes that we draw from when designing low-water landscapes for our Portland clients. Here are some of our favorites:

Shade Cool-Weather Veggies

In the vegetable garden, a little bit of effort goes a long way in protecting shade-loving crops from the heat. Direct sun is too much for cool weather crops like lettuces, spinach, arugula and other greens. Luckily, it’s easy to create some shade.

Sun Soaked Veggies

1 – Plant strategically. You can create a living shade wall by planting cool weather crops between rows of taller, sun lovers. Lettuces love to bask in the shade behind trellised pole beans and cucumbers.

2 – Didn’t think about the heat in advance? No worries. Floating row cover is a lightweight, versatile and inexpensive solution. Drape it over your greens on a hot day to create a temporary barrier from the sun, or create a simple frame out of wood or PVC piping, similar to a cold-frame, that fits over an entire bed and can be removed when temperatures drop.

Have any other hot weather gardening tips? Share them in the comments!

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