In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
June, 2007
Regional Report

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In prolonged drought, containers need daily watering.

Feast or Famine

From drought to deluge and everything in between, the weather has definite effects on our gardening habits. South Florida has been under ever-increasing water restrictions since January, and both home gardens and public landscapes are showing the stress. Even if the traditional rainy season that begins this month delivers average amounts, the deficit will likely not be overcome this year.

We are learning to conserve water like never before, and to accept garden reality when we must. Lawns and golf courses can tolerate dry conditions for awhile, then go dormant. Perennial beds may languish under their mulch, preserving their clumps with even small amounts of water. Vegetable plots can be irrigated with drippers or grey water captured from washing machines or kitchen sinks. Established shrubs and trees are usually hardier (if unattractive) when kept on the dry side, and most municipalities or counties allow irrigation of new plantings to help them survive. Consult local authorities and water wisely. Allow water to soak in slowly, don't allow runoff to occur, and mulch bare ground.

At the other end of our region, Houston, Texas, recorded a record daily maximum rainfall on May 28, more than half an inch above the previous record set in 1975. This record came on the heels of a wild and stormy Memorial Day weekend. Do what you can to slow erosion resulting from flooding. Replace mulch that has washed away and rake mulch that has been piled up near drains. Consider terracing on slopes so water flows away from your plants in streamlets, not rivers.

New Orleans has been getting its share of the rainfall, but the farther east you go in our region, the drier, smokier, and hazier it gets. Drought is not severe in all areas, but smoke from the Georgia and Florida wild fires has been visible for weeks. Where particulate matter and ash has fallen, rinse leaves occasionally to keep their stomata open. Even in stressful times, well-chosen garden plants can survive with basic care.


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