Hot Gardens Newsletter: June 2003
85 And Wilting. Once the daily temperature soars above 85 degrees, most plants begin to slow down for a summer dormancy period. Above 90 degrees, survival is their primary goal. They focus their energies and efforts on creating sugars in their leaves for food, and guzzling water to prevent death from dehydration. So don’t expect a lot of blooms and growth during the hottest months.
The Chaste tree, shown above, blooms in June and its leaves smell great, too.
Some Like It Hot. When most flowers have faded the Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and the Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) fire up for a dazzling show of summer color. Both are naturally shrub-like with multi-trunks, but can be trained to be a small single trunk standard tree that will not grow much more than 20 feet tall. For those who love the blue-purple blossoms of the cold-sensitive Jacaranda tree, a Chaste tree is a terrific substitute. The Crape Myrtle will give you hot pink, red, white and lavender blooms.
Hot Palms. Palms love warm soil for their roots, so summer is a good time to plant them. Other trees should be planted in either the Fall or very early Spring for best results.
The Screwdriver Test. Not sure if you are watering your lawn too much or too little? Then take an 8 inch screwdriver and push it into various places in your lawn about an hour and a half after you have watered. If the screwdriver goes in easily, you are watering enough. You may even want to consider cutting back a bit on water. If you cannot push the screwdriver all the way in, you need to increase the amount of water for the lawn. Trees, by the way, need deep, but infrequent, irrigation so the water penetrates 24 inches into the soil.
Trickle Down. Even birds need extra water now and they prefer to drink from trickling water, rather than a still bird bath. So add a small fountain–not a gushing cascade–but one where water trickles and drips to entice wild birds to your garden. One attractive, low-cost fountain is a terra cotta jar with water flowing gently over the brim into a bed of small pebbles in a plant pot saucer.
Oh, Those Ugly Brown Spots. The sudden increase in temperatures at the onset of summer, especially the increase in overnight low temperatures, puts a lot of stress on lawns and trees. If your lawn is developing brown spots you are in good company — virtually every desert lawn has brown spots now. You may want to give those brown spots some additional water for a while.
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