Heat, heat, glorious heat

August 11, 2009

By Jane Garrison

Spring in Issaquah is cool and wet, right? In summer we have high temperatures in the 70s, right? And we see cloud cover day after day after day, right?

Not this year. This year the sun, the temperatures, and the days without rain have just blown us all away. Most of the people I talk to are complaining. One exception is our master gardeners. I wrote some of them in the Issaquah clinic to get their take on the impact of this dramatic weather pattern on our gardens. Surprisingly, there were few complaints.

Some plants did get scorched — even ones that were well watered. The plants that suffered most were next to hot retaining walls, rockeries or reflective surfaces in direct sun. We chatted back and forth and decided a wait-and-see approach would be a good idea for many of these damaged plants. Wait until fall to prune out permanently dead branches but leave them now to protect those underneath until the hot weather is over for sure.

We noticed that some of the ground cover appears to be dead, at least top dead. It may come back from the roots next spring, so wait and see. It’s OK to remove the dead leaves for the sake of appearance.

Some of the native plants look wilted, including swordfern and salal. They are both very tough, and we expect full recovery next spring.

One of the master gardeners said she was losing leaves early on her old Japanese maple. It is planted on the top of a rockery in compacted soil and is difficult to water. If soil gets dry, watering the surface may not work; it might just run off, especially if it’s hilly. One suggestion is to place two to three-inch diameter by 12-inch long pieces of plastic pipe vertically down into the ground at the dripline. Fill the pipes with water regularly during hot, dry spells.

I was looking on the Internet for some gardening information and found an East Coast chat group complaining about their awful, cool, wet weather. You know what? They got our weather, and we got theirs this year. They were saying that the gardening season was ruined. They aren’t going to have a harvest at all. Wussies!

We garden every year in that kind of weather and make it work. But this year all of our master gardeners were thrilled with the way their basil, tomatoes, and herbs jumped out of the ground to feel the heat and soak up the sun. I think we could learn to live with this hot stuff and maybe turn out some pretty good gardens. Heck, we can even make it work in the rain.

Jane Garrison is a local master gardener and landscape architect who gardens in glacial till on the plateau.

Visit the master gardener clinics at Squak Mountain Nursery and the Pickering Farmers Market every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. They will not be at Squak Mountain Nursery in August.

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