Hot weather calls for careful gardening

Published 7:11 pm Thursday, July 13, 2017

To gardeners, the arrival of hot, 90-degree summer days translates into a shift in the normal gardening routine.

It could also mean the onslaught of extreme conditions: intense wetness or drought.

Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Dan Bergbauer said it’s important that gardeners consider the possibilities of these extreme weather conditions when growing their gardens. He said while areas in eastern North Carolina may not experience drought as frequently as other areas, it still poses enough of a threat that gardeners should take precautions.

“If we go without measureable rain for 10 days, we start to enter drought conditions,” Bergbauer said. “We experience drought conditions about four to five times a year. It’s not a lot, but it is enough to be a problem.”

Bergbauer also noted that while drought can paralyze a garden, it’s important to consider what the opposite could do. He said this area receives about 50-60 inches of rain a year, which is enough, but it could also oversaturate flowers and plants.

“You have to look for drought-resistant plants, but you also have to look to see if they can tolerate a lot of water,” Bergbauer said. “Some plants that do well in dry conditions don’t do well in wet conditions, and vice versa.”

While preparing a garden for extreme conditions, Bergbauer said there are many different factors gardeners must keep in mind. The type of soil will make a difference, as clay-type soils will retain more moisture than sandy soils. However, Bergbauer emphasized that the most important factor is mulch.

“Make sure flower beds are well mulched with a couple inches of mulch. That’s No. 1,” he said.

Bergbauer said there is a useful resource to gardeners at the Home Garden Information Center of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. He said gardeners can find a list of plants that will withstand a drought once established.

Some of these plants include dusty millers, butterfly bushes, red maples and the popular black-eyed Susan.

The black-eyed Susan, while drought tolerant, will still begin to wilt after experiencing drought conditions, but it is a popular flower that can withstand dryness once established, according to Bergbauer.

“It’s just going into defense mode, just like the human body would,” he said.

When growing a garden, individuals should develop a working gardening plan. Bergbauer said it’s helpful for gardeners to conduct plant research as well as have a garden vision.

“Gardeners need their own expectations. Jot down and draw a diagram of what they want. Then, look for the right type of plants … color, size, shade tolerance, sun tolerance, etc.,” he said.