“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawnmower is broken.”      James Dent

…and I will add, that there is an inch of rain a week. Because my neighbors will otherwise get a good laugh while I bust a move doing the rain dance when they see me over the fence as they walk by with their dogs.

Whenever the desk is messy I am grateful because it means I am busy and that’s good. With the Haddon Heights Garden Tour done I am now into maintenance mode, veggie production and setting up my tent at the local farmer’s markets– which I love. The squash plants seem to have doubled in size in a week–they are just one of many plants that really turn it on when the mercury rises. The beans are nearly in bloom (row one,) and the second row should be sprouting any day. Several baby tomatoes have appeared.

I suggest to my clients that they site plants that are most water needy close to the water source, whether this is the hose bib or the rain barrel. The converse is also true: plants that can take the dry just fine can be located at the far point from the water. I dislike to drag a hose as invariably plants get broken or crushed despite great care so therefore, my watering tips below are to keep things as easy for you as possible.  Keep in mind that annual plants–veggies included–have small root systems so they are generally more water needy, therefore it is a good idea to be especially mindful of this when you plant them into the garden bed. Here are my hot summer favorites that really perform:
1. Canna lilies. Annual in our zone. Lots of dwarf varieties are available now. Look for some with interesting foliage. Since I am doing a “merlot” color theme this year, the ones I purchased have a sort of cocoa and wine-colored leaf. They also come in striped colors, and bright green;
2. Dahlias. This is the state flower of Mexico so you know it can take the heat. The more heat the better and these annuals will be the bloom that carries your garden color from mid-summer until frost;
3. Flowering tobacco. Annual. There are a few varieties to pick from: the smaller ones come in white, limey-green, red, pink; the taller variety in white. Both are fragrant;
4. Sedums and succulents. All the rage right now for good reason. Since they are so popular, be sure to see if what you buy is hardy for our zone. The paddle succulent in the photo above needs to come indoors; many do not;
5. Ornamental grasses. I suggest sticking to the native varieties especially Switch Grass, Sea Oat Grass and Little Blue Stem;
6. Lilies. I have a particular fondness for the fragrant Oriental Lilies. Most need to be staked, especially in my garden with Katie bounding through plant beds;
7. Roses. They love it hot but don’t skimp on the watering;
8. Herbs. I’ve rarely lost a perennial herb, even in the hottest and driest of summers. Plus, their cool green foliages look great with nearly all other plants in the sunny border.

Aside choosing plants that are not appropriate for site conditions, nothing– well maybe deer browse– causes more problems in a garden than improper watering techniques. Especially if you have young and/or new plants.  People also ask me if it’s ok to plant in the summer. The answer: Absolutely! As long as you water properly there is no reason not to plant. If you go away on vacation, you of course want to make plans for that. My crew planted a tree for me yesterday–a Yellowwood variety called “Perkins Pink.” Since it is a baby, I will be watering with more care, but that’s ok. It’s a beauty already and it took the finches only minutes to find it after planting. We are shy on rain this season so far and it’s only just summer. Print this out and keep it near the back door for handy reference:
1. It is preferable to water in the morning. This helps the plants be hydrated for a hot day ahead. Watering in the heat of the day is just losing water to evaporation and watering in the evening can promote fungus;
2. Always water at the base of the plant, never the foliage. I liken this to you putting your lips on the water fountain and not swallowing the water. Plants are engineered to draw water up from their roots;
3. Water with a slow, gentle stream so the water will soak in and not run off. Be especially mindful of this if the plant bed is on a slope;
4. Many plants look droopy at the end of the day–don’t panic! When it’s hot and windy, plants send available water to the core of the plant. Many times the plant will look more perky in the morning. Still, the droopy plant is a sign of dry so watch it;
5. Buy a soil moisture meter. This probe can be inserted into the soil and give you a reading at root level. This way you know if you are watering deep enough and long enough and so you know not to over or under water your plants;
6. Consistent watering is key–whether this is from the skies or from your hose. What this means is not to let your plants get to the edge of suffering a dry-out and then deluge them with a heavy soak. Most plants prefer an inch of rainfall per week rather than two dry weeks and then a pounding thunderstorm;
7. New plants are at special risk of dry-out as the soil around them has been disturbed and transplanting is always stressful for plants. I usually recommend watering new plants every day for a week, then every other day for the following two weeks, then twice a week for the next three weeks. Again, paying attention to what the plants look like, using the moisture meter to check.

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