It's HOT out there!

Over the past month, 12 days have reached temperatures over 90 degrees. On 12 other days the mercury climbed above the 80 degree mark and in the same span of one month, we’ve received only ½ an inch of precipitation (according to the weather station at CSU). Bottom line: IT’S HOT and DRY but then, you’ve probably noticed! Your plants have noticed, too. The most obvious need when dealing with heat is WATER. However, getting the water right for your plants can be tricky. Watch out for these deceptions:
  • Wilting. Chances are your plants are wilting because they're thirsty, but plants will wilt both when they have too much water and when they don’t have enough. Wilting only indicates there’s a problem, it’s not enough to diagnose the problem. Also, be aware that tomatoes routinely wilt in the heat of the day, but that is just their mechanism for dealing with the heat and doesn’t necessarily mean they need additional water.
  • Dry Soil Surface. Because the sun is baking down on it, the surface of the soil may be dry, but underneath there may be plenty of water. I have been fooled by soil that is dry and cracked on the surface only to discover mud underneath. Push your finger, a screwdriver or a moisture meter down into the soil several inches to be certain. The heavy, clay soil which makes digging so challenging in this area has an amazing ability to retain moisture below the surface. The soil in potted plants can be just as deceptive with the top dry and yet damp underneath that dry layer. Over watering is just as detrimental to plant health as drought.
Consider these strategies to make your watering more effective:
  • Water slowly. When the soil surface is dry, water will often roll right off. To keep the water on your lawn instead of running down the gutter, try setting your sprinkler timer to water for 5 minutes per zone then run the program which waters that zone 3 times over the course of the night rather than running each zone for 15 minutes all at once. My sprinklers run in the early morning, starting at about 3:00 am when the wind is typically calm and it is the coolest time of day to prevent evaporation. If you’re using the hose to water shrubs, bedding plants or container gardens, water everything briefly, then go back and water everything again more generously. With these strategies, the soil has a chance to absorb the water.
  • Use drip irrigation. Drip irrigation (rather than spray) is popular for good reason – it delivers the water slowly, consistently and directly on the soil surface.
  • Fertilize gently. Fertilizers that are applied to the leaves are likely to burn the plants in high temperatures – avoid these. Apply slow-release fertilizer pellets to the soil rather than spraying plants. If you have a fertilizer unit on your drip irrigation system, now is a good time to add fertilizer. Use up to 4 tablespoons water soluble plant food to the canister. Cool-season turf grass does not need fertilizer now; it can be fertilized again in cooler weather.
  • Give your plants a quick spritz. Considering running your sprinklers on the lawn or in a shrub and perennial bed for just a couple of minutes late in the afternoon (around 4:00). This increases the humidity around the plants and helps them recover from the heat of the day.
Finally, our best strategy for dealing with the heat is simply patience. Some plants take a break from flowering in the heat of the summer, but they’ll bloom again when the temperatures cool. Some vegetables (squash in particular) will drop their flowers because they don’t have the energy to produce fruit in this heat. Other plants, like spinach and lettuce, “bolt” and send up their flowers and seeds in a last effort to reproduce before they expire in the heat. The turf grass frequently turns yellow-brown, but it isn’t dead, it’s just dormant and will return to green when both the air and the soil temperatures drop.

For you, the gardener, your best strategy is to work outside in the early morning and in the evening when it’s cool; drink plenty of water; use sunscreen; and wear a hat. (I prefer sparkly hats!) If you have questions or concerns about your plants in this hot weather, feel free to contact me. Happy gardening!
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For the 2017 gardening season, I'm highlighting flowers and plants of each color of the rainbow. I'm up to the color green this month and in coming months I'll cover blue and purple. 

Color of the Month: Green

As Kermit the Frog said, "it's not easy being green." While there aren't many green flowers, some plants have nicer foliage than others.
In containers...
Rex Begonia
Rex Begonia
This variety of Rex Begonia is called "Escargot" and it is my most popular pin on Pintrest. The large, spiral leaves really steal the show from any flowering plant around it!
'Lime Green' Flowering Tobacco / Nicotiana
It's debatable whether the flowers are green or actually yellow, but the breeder named the flower "Lime Green," so I guess that settles it. Remove the spent flowers to keep the plant blooming.
Asparagus Fern
Asparagus Fern / Sperengii
Nice on it's own and also a great, airy filler plant, Asparagus Fern prefers some shade. It will survive the winter as a houseplant, but it can be messy, dropping it's tiny needle-like leaves.
In flower beds...
A plant know for it's large, lush leaves, Hosta is a staple for the shade garden. Slugs are a common pest, spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant when you see their munching. It's available on-line or at the local nurseries, just be sure you know how to spell diatomaceous.
Coral Bells
Coral Bells / Heuchera
Coral Bells is another plant grown for it's showy leaves in the shady garden. In pictures, Coral Bells is typically shown in bloom, but I think the flower spikes are weird (and sometimes ugly) so I cut them off right away. 
Creeping Thyme
Creeping Thyme / Thymus minor
In addition to the soft and woolly texture of Creeping Thyme, it will release its delicious fragrance when brushed against. Thyme does well planted beside a path or between stepstones.
In the yard..
Kintzley's Ghost
'Kintzley's Ghost' Honeysuckle Vine / Lonicera reticulata
The flowers on this vine are small and yellow, but the bract - the large leaf behind the flower - is a bluish-green color which remains long after the flowers are gone. According to the High Country Gardens website this vine was "originally propagated by William "Ped" Kintzley at the Iowa State University greenhouses in the 1880's and passed along to family members, this heirloom plant was recently rediscovered growing in Ft. Collins, CO."
Bluestem Joint Fir
Blue-stem Joint Fir / Ephedra equisetina
An unusual and ever-green plant, Blue-stem Joint Fir is a good choice for a xeriscape area. It requires very little supplemental water and provides an interesting texture in the garden. Although it is only a moderate-fast grower, this plant can reach 6-foot tall and wide; give it plenty of space.