Dirt on Gardening

I dread the “D” word. Just about all summer, all or parts of Texas County have experienced drought conditions. In drought conditions, many gardeners ask, “What are you doing in your garden?”

During exceptionally dry times, I water where I have to, but I resign myself to survival methods in my gardens. Some vegetable gardeners have pulled out their vegetable plants, calling the garden finished for the season.

Some vegetable plants love heat and can endure a lack of water. Hot peppers and okra usually continue to thrive. However, berries, green peppers, and beans need regular rain. The heat related stress on vegetable plants keeps them from setting new fruit, too.

Perennial plants, of which I have many, will not perform well in excessive heat. Second blooms from flowering perennials are non-existent. Some perennial plants go dormant as the leaves of the plant die back. Dormancy is just the plant’s way of protecting itself from the heat and lack of water.

Newly established trees, shrubs, and other perennial plants require lots of water to get through the drought-like conditions. A gardener should continue to regularly water these plants until the planting area receives steady rainfall. Unfortunately, several weeks without rain have caused many plants to be lost this year in parts of the Ozarks.

If your perennial plants are dying back, you can shear off seed heads and spent stems to begin to clean up your beds for winter. Berries, such as raspberry canes that have also died back prematurely can be cut back to prepare for new growth next spring as well.

Just as berries did not grow well in the heat and dry conditions, trees such as buckeye may not set seed, or the seed may be very small. There is nothing permanently wrong with your tree; this is just tree’s response to the heat and lack of water.

If you regularly fertilize your lawn in the fall, do not put down fertilizer until a good rain is in the forecast. Putting down fertilizer without a good amount of water to send the fertilizer into the ground can actually kill the grass rather than benefit it.

While the summer may be coming to a dismally dry end, I am hoping that rain will come our way for the winter and next spring. I have heard of times in the Ozarks when one dry summer led to a dry winter and spring and planting a vegetable garden the following year was impossible. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t personally witness one of those times.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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