Thursday, June 24, 2010

6.21 Cool Days, Hot Days, June Days

We have a cool week and I worry that the plants aren’t getting enough sun, especially the annuals which have to make hay – or tomatoes, or peppers, or eggplant – in that relatively short time frame when the sun is supposed to shine. At the same time, I worry they’re not getting enough water because while the days are gray with threatened rain, not much rain actually hits the ground. The top layer of soil looks gray and crusty.
Then the weather changes, as of course it will, and we get a stretch of warm days, a couple of them humid as well, and now (while the tomatoes are happy) I’m afraid that some of my flowering plants are wilting in the heat. The leaves droop in the middle of the day, especially in this period of the hottest sun of the year. A new one goes on the watch list: have I put it in the right place? Does it need water every day to survive? If it does, then it can’t be in the right place, can it?
Warm days blending into hot ones – high eighties, humidity in the air by breakfast time – create a new regime. Now I think about watering first thing in the morning. It’s a summer time schedule, a summer vacation lifestyle: windows open, so wake to birds and neighborhood noise; go outdoors first thing to inspect the garden; walk around with the watering can or the hose as soon as something triggers the too-dry alarm; eat breakfast outdoors under the tree.
Of course, that routine doesn’t last either. We don’t live in a climate where the same weather pattern goes on day after day, week after week. It will rain tonight; I won’t worry about watering tomorrow morning – or breakfasting outdoors.
But while my classic-summer-conditions weather routine persists, I decide that systematic garden inspections may tell me something useful. How well will my new plants or “heat-sensitive” perennials hold up to the sun this year? I’ll do a morning check, a high noon inspection, and an end-of-day walk through.
At high noon yesterday, which means one o’clock eastern daylight time, I paid a visit to the heat-unhappy lace-cap hydrangea in the front garden. The plant has been a challenge since I planted it around the start of July two years ago on the shadier side of the front but yet, it appears, in a place still too hot and sunny. High summer sun penetrates there. With its leaves flopping piteously on the ground day after day, I watered the plant daily on sunny days and the same pattern continued last year. This year, after a pruning, the plant is fuller and its leaves have a ruddy dark-green tone. The flowers are just starting to open, and so far everything looks good. But will the good times last? Though the hydrangea is fine in the sun today, I remind myself that a good storm the other night soaked the area – wait till we get a real hot spell. I water it, in anticipation.
Are there new holes in the leaves of any of my new plantings? I’ve only recently accepted that something chewing on the leaves of young plants (probably at night since I never see these cunning pests) is a problem. Too late for two tiny marigolds, which have been largely stripped of anything resembling a leaf. My theory now is when you plant annuals or young perennials in among established plants, the pests – tiny inch worms that munch by night – are already established among the elders and quickly seek out the tender new leaves of the young. I make a mental note to spray these again.
Another annual, a zinnia, looks great after a rain but declines quickly into a ragged, chewed-up state after a few days without water. It’s so-so today. Remember to water.
Ah, the morning glory. A little too early in the season for flowers even after a morning this glorious. But the question is, any new chew-holes? The new leaves look good, but this is another plant (another annual) that needs regular watering, and I need to keep watching the new leaves daily for signs of nighttime predation.
The evening primrose, a well-rooted perennial, will drop its leaves in a graphic surrender of heat prostration on hot afternoons, so that makes it another candidate for attention. Today so far it’s good.
The butterfly bush will flag as well, as I’ve noticed with surprise for several years now. The thing is, as far as I can find out, this is a sun-loving plant, but the tall rather leggy bush against the back fence seems to be telling something about its sensitivity to hot dry weather. Does it too need water all summer? – as well as full sun to grow its flowers?
So maybe I don’t mind that it’s going to rain tonight and probably stay gray all day tomorrow – it relieves the watering schedule.
Somebody break the news to my tomatoes.