The official start of the summer gardening season begins this week. This is when many heat- loving plants glory in the arrival of 90-degree weather. Plants are much like people, and like people they have their favorite seasons. I happen to be a summer lover myself so if I were a plant I’d make a great blooming crape myrtle, butterfly bush, or rose of Sharon. Come to think of it, as an Arizona native I’d more likely be a local brake light yucca or blooming desert willow!
If flower color were factored into this “if I were a plant” musing, red being my favorite color I might be a Cherry Glow Penstemon. Every morning it’s fun to see hummingbirds buzzing the greenhouses as they fight over the deep-throated Cherry Glow red flowers. Hummers simply love this local native. This tall red-flowered plant is related to the snapdragon and is among a garden’s most exuberant bloomers. Its stature and color are important to the enchantment of Prescott. This plant knows how to show off in hot weather and even prefers being planted during summer heat.
In a couple of respects plants are much like people. Just as we occasionally need lotion on our hands and elbows, our plants need lotion on their leaves and branches. Soothing plant salves, called anti-desiccants, work wonders at counteracting heat and wind in the garden. These are specialized agricultural grade products probably only found at your favorite garden center. Look for a ready-to-use product called “Wilt Stop”. This new polymer liquid is sprayed on foliage and is effective for the entire season.
Also, like people do, plants sweat in an effort to keep cool. A plant can lose moisture out of its leaves faster than its roots can replace it. Use “Wilt Stop” to coat the leaves and stop moisture loss. In an arid climate this foliar spray is welcome news. To treat large specimen trees and large garden plots a new concentrated form of this liquid polymer is now available under the name of “Anti-Stress 2000”. Most of my personal gardens have been slathered in this silky smooth lotion and the plants are happier than ever during June heat. These are great lotions to promote healthy plants, indoors and outside.
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If you haven’t introduced Soil Moist to your gardening regimen, you’re missing an important tool in arid climate gardening. Soil Moist polymers are tiny white crystals that absorb 200 times their weight in water. Used as a soil additive they are worked gently into the root zone of bed and container plants. Then, when the irrigation comes on, the crystals absorb water and slowly release the water back into the soil as plants demand moisture. All container gardens and raised beds should have a dose of these moisture- holding granules. They also are a boon to houseplants.
Houseplant health can be a concern while you are away for extended periods of time. Look no farther than Bosmere’s House Plant Drinkers” for happy container plants without your constant attention. These five-inch long clay spikes are stuck into the soil of container plants; the attached straw is put into a container of water where it wicks water to the spike. As the pot’s soil dries, the straw and spike combo continually deliver moisture. Want to travel a month to see the grandkids? Simply put a larger bowl of water for the straw to draw from and off you go! Plant Drinkers are the perfect gizmos for RV’ers and other road warriors.
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Because our monsoons look to be days away . . . . FEED YOUR PLANTS NOW! This is the best advice to apply to ANY plants in our gardens. Years ago I developed a plant food for local gardens. I’ve tweaked the formula numerous times ‘til it’s what I believe is the perfect Arizona plant food. Simply called “All Purpose Plant Food”, the natural plant nutrients are safe to use around pets and people. Sprinkle the granules around the bases of your plants and on the ground. Then let the rains work the nutrients through rock, shredded bark, and fabric, deep into the roots. Feed everything in the landscape within the next three weeks to take advantage of our seasonal rains.
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My summer gardening classes are under way at the garden center. They are held, free of charge, every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. These fun-filled, energetic sessions are packed with lots of local gardening tips. This week’s class is “Paradise Found for Newcomers ”. June 30 we have “Juicier Fruits, Grapes & Berries”. Look for the entire class schedule on www.wattersonline.com under the ‘classes for the taking’ link
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.