Though my writing talent is woefully wanting, it does have an uncanny way of influencing the weather. For example, in last week's column, I made several references to the ongoing drought and, lo and behold, I awoke that morning to the pitter-patter of a steady rain. In the interest of continuing this contradictory trend, let's look at some perennials that are holding up to the hot and dry weather.
To see first hand which plants are looking great despite the sultry weather, I strolled through my garden, as well as sneaked a peak into the gardens of other folks. By the way, that stranger in the trench coat, fedora, dark glasses and fake mustache surveying your garden was me; thanks for not calling the police. A safer option for this plant investigation is to visit one of the many public gardens in the region.
Among the most stoic plants I found were yarrow (Achillea species), lamb's-ears (Stachys byzantine), mugwort or wormwood (Artemisia species), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), lavender (Lavandula) and creeping snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum). If you're familiar with these plants, you will have noticed they all have something in common: their foliage is silver or gray.
In the garden
Now, reflect on these activities:
• Root cuttings from begonias (wax and rex types), coleus, geraniums, and impatiens (including New Guinea impatiens), and grow these on as houseplants this winter. These plants need bright light for best growth indoors. Experiment with cuttings of other soft-stemmed annuals in your garden.
These annuals provide color indoors in winter and can serve as stock plants from which to take cuttings for outdoor plantings next spring.
• Look for yellowing, bronzing, stippling or webbing on leaves of vegetables, flowers and woody plants, including conifers.
These are symptoms of spider mite infestation. Spider mites, which thrive in hot, dry weather, are very tiny; you may need a magnifying glass to see them.
In many cases, natural predators keep spider mite populations in check.
However, when populations rapidly increase, as often happens during the summer, it may be necessary to apply a miticide.
One option is to apply a summer oil, such as SunSpray Ultra-Fine Oil. Read and follow instructions and safety precautions found on the pesticide label before using any pesticide.
• Be sure your mower blade is sharp. That is especially important this summer, given the stress on lawns from drought and high heat. Mowing with a dull blade tends to shred grass and increases water loss from the plants.
• Place tomatoes and other fruiting crops in a cool location, but not the refrigerator, soon after harvesting on a hot day. Cooling these crops increases their shelf life.
• Sort through recently harvested and cured garlic bulbs. Select a few of the largest and healthiest looking bulbs and set these aside for planting in October.
Do not separate the individual cloves from the bulbs until just prior to planting.
• Plant peas for fall harvest if you have leftover seed from spring plantings.
Most pea varieties mature in about 70 days with a mid-summer planting and they'll be able to withstand early fall frosts.
You may not get the same yield as with spring plantings, but you'll get enough to give your pea-pickin' family a rare fall treat of fresh peas.