Hot Gardens Newsletter: July 2003
Take the Screwdriver Test. Not sure whether you are watering your lawn too much or too little? Then try this. Take an 8 inch screwdriver and push it into the ground at various places in your lawn about an hour after you have watered. Do it close to and far away from your sprinkler heads. If the screwdriver goes in easily, you are watering enough. You may even want to consider cutting back on your lawn irrigation a little. If you cannot push the screwdriver in the full length, you need to water more or have your irrigation system adjusted. Trees, by the way, need infrequent, deep irrigation–enough to get water 24” down into the root zone. (Note: since we originally wrote this, we now recommend that you remove and replace part or all of your lawn altogether.)
Double Pot for Summer. Set your potted plants in a second, larger pot for summer. Then put an insulation layer of dried moss or coarse organic mulch between the two pots. This will keep the inner pot cooler and protect the plant roots from sizzling heat. You may even be able to water the plants less often. And whatever you do, don’t plant in metal pots or cans. They heat up and cook plant roots.
Love the idea of a fountain but don’t want to get involved with dreaded plumbing and wiring? Then consider creating a Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) “fountain” in your garden.
Waterless Garden Fountain. Here is how to make your Pampas grass fountain: create a mounded garden bed where you want your “fountain” located. It should be at least 8 to 10 feet long by 6 to 8 feet wide by about 1 foot high. A raised garden island bed would be perfect for this design. Prepare the soil, then plant 4 or 5 Pampas grass plants on this raised bed including one at the center. Leave a generous space between the plants. Pampas grass grows fast to 8 feet tall or more in one season and has a graceful green arching shape – as if it is green “water” rising up and spilling back down to the earth.
If you don’t have the large space required for a Pampas grass “fountain”, try doing a smaller version with Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) or Red Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). The effect with red Fountain grass will not be quite the same, however.
Win Some, Lose Some. A red-leafed Fringe flower (Lorapetalum chinense) planted this spring in our Mojave garden turned crisp as soon as the summer heat arrived. This Fall when the weather cools down we are going to try a Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’ ) for a shrub with deep red leaves. Barberry cultivars come in other colors and pygmy sizes, too. And Barberry is suitable for all desert climates.
Tour A Fabulous Private Orchard Garden Online. You can view an exceptional formal orchard garden in the Mediterranean style. This Las Vegas, Nevada garden is owner-designed and demonstrates how beautiful and dramatic a water-wise garden can be.
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