Water, water, water!

In our last blog we discussed the importance of proper watering in the landscape, especially in light of the recent triple digit temperatures and the miniscule rain amounts. Well, hallelujah, the temperatures have gone down and many of us actually received some rain. (Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I faintly heard playing “ding dong the witch is dead…” as if all of our troubles were over!) Unfortunately, our troubles in the landscape are not over and we caution homeowners to not be lulled into a false sense of security just because we got a few drops of rain. While it is certainly a blessing to have the stress level reduced for landscape plantings, the root problem (no pun intended) still remains—the soil layers where active growth occurs are very dry and need supplemental water. New plantings continue to need careful monitoring; shrub and perennial plantings need water placed directly on the root zone of the plant often enough to alleviate wilting or flagging. Larger balled in burlap trees, especially those with large planting holes that may hold water longer, should generally be watered thoroughly (read heavily) once per week. The reader can refer to last week’s blog for further specifics about proper watering.

As I mentioned in the last blog, properly watering the landscape can be a difficult and complicated task. There are many do’s and don’ts’, and exceptions to every watering rule, so if you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Greenleaf Team—we’re glad to help! The following, however, are a few tips or pointers about watering and plants that may help answer some common questions. In the face of 100° temperatures, even well watered plants can exhibit drooping leaves, especially on windy days. In such cases, go outside in the late evening and observe the plant in question. If it has “perked up” and looks normal once again, it may have just stressed temporarily; check the plant again in the following days to see if it appears “normal”. Hydrangeas, especially big leaf and Annabelle types will wilt almost daily in high temperatures and with negligible cloud cover. If you are watering them properly, they will “recover” at night and survive quite nicely; if the wilting continues to bother you, you can “syringe” the plant (spray or mist it lightly) and reduce the wilt. This action will also help newly planted trees and shrubs that have adequate soil moisture but continue to “flag” during the heat of the day—spraying the foliage a few times during highly stressful conditions can pay benefits. (A word to the wise: be sure to run the hot water out of your hose before spraying plant foliage. This may take a few minutes on a really hot day!) Watch your landscape or others in the neighborhood for what I call “indicator plants”–plants that are sensitive to drought conditions and warn us that supplemental water is needed. River birch, and to a lesser extent White birch, will drop yellow leaves in the yard as soon as water levels approach critical stages. Sycamore leaves will also rain down on lawns when soil moisture declines and Honeylocust leaves will brown and curl when moisture is needed. By watching for these indications, you can be prepared to supplement the moisture in your home landscape.

Finally, we observed in the past week a phenomenon we don’t see too often but is a sure indicator that plants, trees in particular, are starving for water. Leaves flip upside down, showing in many cases, a silvery underside; silver maple, red maple, lindens and others exhibited this action during the past week. If your trees are exhibiting this same characteristic, it is a good bet you need to water thoroughly. Remember, Greenleaf is your source for garden and landscape help—even in the most stressful times!

Contributing editor: Don Archer, Don Archer Designs in partnership with Greenleaf Garden Services