Hot Gardens Newsletter: October 2003
Scorched Earth. The brutally hot summer here in the Southwest ruined many lawns. The usually unnoticeable Kentucky bluegrass found in many Fescue lawn sod and seed mixes suffered terribly and simply died, leaving ugly bare spots. (The Fescue part of the mixture survived for the most part in the form of green clumps.) If you decide to reseed you will have to water several times a day for a couple of weeks until the new grass is established. And you may have to do it all over again next year – the world is becoming hotter. It may be time to re-think that lawn altogether.
Front Yard Geometry. We recently saw a moderate-size front yard that had been “planted” with large terra cotta color pavers. The pavers were spaced far enough apart to allow for creeping thyme to be planted between them. The look was very geometric, greener, and more attractive than a rock mulch solution. The fragrance from the thyme as one walks across the “lawn” is wonderful! As a border to this inventive yard the owner had planted scented geraniums and other desert-hardy plants. To top it off, he got a nice tax write-off — his lawnmower was donated to charity.
Planting Season. Now through the middle or end of November is the absolutely best time to plant trees and shrubs in your garden. The weather has cooled down enough – well, at least it is below 100 degrees F. these days—to minimize the heat stress on transplants. If you are planting a tree, be sure to dig the hole at least 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball. But do not plant it deep: the top of the root ball should not be covered. Be sure to ask your nursery for their planting instructions for your local area.
Hummingbird Heaven. The Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’) planted outside our kitchen window is now over 3 feet tall and in full bloom. What a pleasure it is to watch hummingbirds feeding on the brilliant purple flowers from dawn to dusk. Over 2,000 plants classified are as salvias, but this is our favorite for hot climates. It blooms twice a year – in Spring and late Fall. Trim back the branches to about 8 inches after each bloom fades to spur new growth and encourage a longer blooming season.
Ban the Butterflies. Yes, yes – we know that butterflies are beautiful. But the reality is that before they are butterflies, these creatures are caterpillars with huge appetites for plants in your garden. We recommend that you plant a bird-friendly garden instead of one that encourages butterflies. You can find more information about gardens that wild birds – not pigeons—love at Bird and Bees.
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