In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
August, 2001
Regional Report

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Planted in well amended soil and blanketed with mulch, this glistening cleome flower laughs at heat and drought.

Looking for Rain

The typical heat and dry spells of August make this month the proverbial acid test of my gardening skill. This year my yard has suffered not only 100oF plus temperatures, but also drought. We've gone weeks on end with no rain. The lawn areas are brown, feel like concrete underfoot, and the ground is cracking. Even well adapted natives are showing stress.

Ways to Conserve Water

Since we depend on a well for our water supply, I avoid watering plants if I can. I use mulch to shade and cool the soil, protecting it from the baking heat. I also closely space plants to shade and cool each other, as well as keep down competing weeds. Using microclimates such as a tree's cooling shade or a windbreak can help decrease water loss, too. I designed my yard and plantings to be as self sufficient as possible. I've selected plants taking advantage of the natural microclimates and growing conditions and mostly minimizing the need for supplemental watering.

Finding the Moisture

By observing the patterns of sunlight, wind, and drainage, I've identified naturally moist locations such as near down spouts and in low areas. That's where thirsty plants such as astilbe and bee balm are located. Drier areas, such as windy slopes or where the topsoil is thin, are filled with succulents and tried-and-true drought tolerant plants such as junipers.

Finding Hot Spots

Finding hot spots where heat reflects off a buildings or bounces off the patio is important. This is where drought tolerant trees help create shade and cool the air. I place only heat and sun loving plants that tolerate dry soil in these hot, sunny planting areas. By careful selection, I've been able to avoid watering in any but the hottest and driest of times.



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