Smart gardening: Making the most of the heat

Published 9:05 pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

Area gardeners are just aching to get their hands in their flowerbeds and do some planting.

After a cold, snowy winter, the sun and soil have become far too tempting for some.

But Tim Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Gardens, is turning away some business and warning eager gardeners to leave any planting until later.

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“We want people to succeed in their gardening endeavors,” Johnson said. “The fact of the matter is planting in summer isn’t a good idea and with this heat, chances of success are bad. We really, really discourage people from planting right now.”

Johnson said he’s never seen summer’s heat come so early in the year or become so hot so quickly. Add to that little rain, and it’s a recipe for plant failure.

“The plants are all looking so bad right now because they think it’s actually later in the year than it is,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”

Putting new plants in the ground now, with such little rain and hot conditions, may shock the plant so badly it won’t have the chance to establish a strong root system.

“If it’s something that is already blooming, it needed to have already been put in the ground,” Johnson said. “Everyone just wants to plant in the summer, but it’s just a shame.”

The one plant Johnson specifically said could stand a chance being planted in the heat is the crape myrtle.

“If you’re insistent on having to plant you need to talk to local gardeners about what can sustain these conditions,” Johnson said. “Crape myrtles and tough grasses might do fine because they’re a little more hardy.”

Johnson is adamant that as pretty as many plants look now because they’re blooming, now isn’t the time to plant. He did recommend some other projects gardeners could do instead, such as taking the time to water.

“Water in the morning or water in the evening,” Johnson said. “With this heat though, you might need to make decisions on what to water. You might just need to let the grass go because you need to water other plants every day. Be careful though, because the more you water, the more you’ll have to water because the root system goes deeper and deeper.”

Because more water stimulates growth not just for your plants, but also for the weeds, it’s a good idea to get in and do the dirty work — from pruning to weeding.

“It’s the perfect time to start cleaning up,” Johnson said. “Things can get messy.”

Getting into your vegetable garden and harvesting your summer goods for the table should also be done now, and preparing your fall vegetable garden now will save you time when its time to plant.

“It’s a great idea to get that done now while you can’t do much planting in your garden,” Johnson said. “Once August hits, you can start to put in your fall vegetable garden in, so get it ready now. Get the ground tilled, fertilize, put your lime down and get ready to rock and roll. We have huge success with fall gardens. They grow and do very well in this area.”