Tips to make your gardening a breeze in hot summer temperatures – Picayune Item

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture at Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Now that the weather is reaching temperatures of 100 degrees and above, how is your garden doing? We’ve been keeping a close eye on the pollinator garden lately, as it sure doesn’t take long for plants to crunch in dry soil and blazing sun. If you’re still gardening, you’re most likely already working early in the day and wear a cooling towel around your neck to avoid sunburn and keep yourself a little cooler. Take water with you and stay hydrated! Also, consider adding “extras” to your water, like granulated electrolyte powders, which can help prevent muscle cramps from becoming dehydrated.

How are the new systems you installed this spring? Now is the time that most of us will retreat to the cool air conditioning for the summer and our only occupation with the garden will be looking at it from inside. So I hope you place your new plants somewhere where you can watch the activity of butterflies, birds and hummingbirds from your sofa or kitchen table.

You don’t need to install an expensive automatic irrigation system to provide water for your landscape beds. A smart and inexpensive way to keep your garden watered regularly is with a simple manual timer connected to a hose and sprinkler. A very useful type of sprinkler is the “rain tower” shape, where the rotor head is held high on a metal tripod. It’s worth spending a little more money to have a durable metal sprinkler rather than one with plastic parts that don’t last as long. We use this type of tower sprinkler to water our pollinator garden and you are welcome to come and have a look.

Sometimes it’s the old methods that have stood the test of time for decades – still! I remember being impressed about twenty years ago by a customer who was a longtime gardener and was watering a huge backyard with lawns and landscaped beds using just one of these two meter tall sprinklers. She would just move it several times a day. Even in times of drought, their backyard was lush and green.

Another smart watering system is the old-fashioned flat sprinkler hoses. One side, when turned holes up, “sprinkles” a fountain along its length. With holes turned down, it just seeps into the bed. Sprinkler hoses are great for linear planting along a driveway, property boundary, or house foundation. We currently use this method on our visitor center deck where we run the hose on a timer system in the middle of our container plants for sale. As a result, our plants are constantly watered.

Another method that requires little to no attention when watering is to install plants that love standing water if you have areas that stay constantly wet. Use high-yielding, low-maintenance flowering summer perennials like Texas Star Hibiscus, Cardinal Flower, Stokes’ Aster, or American Crinum Lily. Shrubs that like wet feet include Sweet Pepper Bush, Virginia Willow, and Buttonbush.

One product you may not have heard of is called the Cool Vest. We have a few of these in the garden for voluntary use. A search for these keywords will bring you many results that you can consider, in a range of costs. High-end vests are very durable and made for those who work in outdoor jobs. Some are evaporative – just soak in water and they’ll be good for hours. Others go in the freezer so you can get through the next day chilled with pop-in ice packs. I will never forget the day Arboretum member Theresa Anoskey visited with her ice-cold vest on a hot day. She found me working in the pollinator garden (a rare sight as I usually sit indoors at my computer). Theresa took off her vest and had me try it on, which made quite an impression. She’s lucky I returned it!

Due to the great response to the “Beekeeping for Beginners” program last week with Dr. For Eddie Smith, the Pearl River County Counselor, we opened a second program on Friday, July 15 from 10:00-11:00 am. The program is free for Arboretum members and $5 for non-members. Sign up for the Introductory Birding Walk with birder Jessica Martin on July 16 from 9:30-10:30 am. Learn tips and resources, along with beginner (and intermediate) gear and common bird species in the area. The cost is $2 for Arboretum members and $7 for non-members. Please call 601-799-2311 to register for programs.

To receive regular notifications of upcoming activities, log on to the Events section of our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/, check out our website calendar, or visit our Facebook page. The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune off exit 4 of I-59 and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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