by Rick Vuyst
My friends on the West Coast are adapting to a far different gardening lifestyle than me here in Michigan. They’re thinking succulents, cactus and no lawns and flowers while here, we are water rich. I read recently that there has been a 3-foot rise in the Great Lakes over the past couple years. You might think three feet is not a big deal; if each inch represents 800 billion gallons of water, then it’s easy to see the expansive gain. Then compare our situation to California and you realize we’re living in two different worlds when it comes to our home landscapes.
When dealing with dry areas, I like to recommend Mycorrhizae, which is a fungus that occurs naturally in the soil. It is essentially a symbiotic loving relationship between a fungus that colonizes plant roots and the plant that feeds the fungus. A network is created, allowing plant root capacity to absorb both nutrients and moisture from the surrounding soil. You can purchase it as a soil additive from a garden center and put it to work for your plants. Another option is to add some crystal polymers to the soil, which have the ability to absorb and hold many times their size and weight in moisture. Think diapers, or the same concept; if you want to “pamper” some thirsty plants, add crystal polymers especially to containers or hanging baskets.
“When watering, try watering at the base of the plants as ‘mulch’ as possible.”
Succulents have developed a new found popularity in the midst of water concerns in some areas across the U.S. Succulents and sedums come in many shapes and sizes and are easy to grow provided you don’t drown them with kindness. Herbs are a great choice too. Herbs are sun lovers and thrive in the heat. Basil, lavender, rosemary or oregano are a few great examples. Flowering annuals like gomphrena, vinca and scaevola can take the heat and somewhat dry conditions. Ornamental grasses come in a wide variety of choices and are heat and drought tolerant providing great interest from July to October.
Remember a light layer of mulch helps plants through the summer months by cooling the roots and helping retain some soil moisture. When watering, try watering at the base of the plants as “mulch” as possible. Along the lines of water conservation, irrigating in the early morning is best; mid-day irrigation is subject to waste through evaporation with the combination of wind and sun. Foliage is most dry during overnight hours, so morning irrigation allows the plant time to dry before the cooler overnight hours in order to avoid disease.
Let’s keep growing during the hot dry summer months. “Water” you waiting for?
Rick Vuyst is CEO of Flowerland, host of the Flowerland Show on NewsRadio WOOD 1300 and 106.9 FM as well as Mr. Green Thumb on WZZM TV 13.