Garden Upkeep in the Heat

Anticipation, mulching, xeriscaping, drip lines and sprinklers can help flowers and plants survive in August.

You love summer, but you must admit, August is the cruelest month for your garden.

Your plants gasp for cool breezes and beg for water. You can’t mulch enough. Perennials bloomed; now, their leaves wilt and crimp before your eyes.

These specialists have solutions for your August garden woes: Clare Ashby, a Tulsa landscape architect; Brian Jarvis, a Tulsa County Extension Agent; and Barry Fugatt, founder of Tulsa’s Linnaeus Teaching Garden.

Start at the beginning of the season

“It doesn’t hurt most well-established plants to be a bit stressed in August,” Fugatt says. “But for survivability, no plant is ever better than its root system.”

To ensure August garden survival, he encourages preparing spring soil properly for planting and mulching deeply.

“This puts your plants in better shape to withstand stressful periods,” he says. “If you wonder why your plants are croaking, maybe you didn’t get them off to the proper start.”

Mulching isn’t just for winter

“Keeping plants covered in wood bark mulch helps grow their root systems deeper in June and July,” Jarvis says. “It prepares them for the August heat. Mulching helps keep the soil cool and reflects the sun’s heat away from the plants.”

Xeriscaping is another ploy gardeners can use to thwart nature’s oven. This gardening style uses plants requiring less water after they are established. A drip line between the mulch and the soil also saves water and keeps plants thriving.

Like Fugatt, Jarvis recommends thinking ahead.

“We know it’s going to be hot in August, so plant with that in mind,” he says. “Helping plants establish their root system by less frequent watering during that time encourages them to seek other water sources. Let your plants struggle a bit early in the season. It will help them survive the end of summer heat.”

Design with heat in mind

Ashby says a successful August garden is less about planting and more about creating inviting spaces featuring shade, phantom screens and water features. A customized sprinkler system is a must, she says.

Rather than big flower beds, she prefers pots with colorful plants and textures pleasing to the eye. Hostas, Japanese Hakone grass, yews, boxwoods and globe arborvitae are favorites. She loves Oklahoma stalwarts, such as crepe myrtles and grasses that withstand heat.

“Sometimes, a colorful pot is so interesting, it doesn’t matter what’s blooming in it,” says Ashby, who suggests rotating pots to places that tolerate searing temperatures and have their own watering zones.

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