Here in New England, the seasons are pretty clearly defined. Winters are for snowstorms and frigid cold air (my personal favorite). I am the type of person that loves snuggling up and being cozy and warm with a big ole blanket, at cat in my lap, a cup of coffee, and either a good book or the Harry Potter movie series. What better excuse to be stuck indoors than a snowstorm and frigid temperatures.
Spring is the softening of the ground after the hard freeze has lifted and the bulbs planted in the fall begin to break ground and show themselves. Flowering trees bud, bees and birds return from hibernations and winter migration. Bunny rabbits and song birds build nests and establish themselves as the warmer air begins to welcome in summer.
June, July, and August for farmers in New England is all about planting their prize winning crop! Corn, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, herbs, carrots, pumpkins and so much more! Farm stands and harvest basket subscriptions are all the rage here in Connecticut. Families can shop as needed at their local farm stop and grab fresh produce for their evening meal or they can sign up to have a bundle of fresh harvest delivered once a week.
We’re lucky enough to live near a 150 year old orchard that has an abundance of self picking fields for blueberries, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and pretty soon the apples will be ready! Nothing quite compares to the juicy first bite into a fresh peach or plum freshly picked off the tree. Unfortunately, the crop here in Connecticut has been suffering. We have been experiencing one of the worst droughts in over fifty years.
This has been one of the driest summers here in Connecticut and keeping our gardens alive while also being respectful of the water shortage has been a challenge. Thankfully, most of the plants we put in this summer were wildflower mixes that do well in any soil and water conditions. They are fantastic drought tolerant plants. But some of our perennials have been suffering due to the harsh heat.
Tips for Gardening During Drought Conditions
It’s easy to assume you’re experiencing a drought based on how much rain you’ve had in your area. Going weeks without rain is an obvious red flag but you can also check out the U.S. drought monitor as well. Visit their website and click on the region of the country you reside in and you’ll be able to read about the level of drought in your area and what precautions and restrictions may be in effect in your area.
Here are a few tips for gardening during drought conditions. These ideas will help you conserve water and maintain a moderately healthy garden during the dry stretches of summer
1. Water plants in the early morning
Water in the early morning before the harsh and strong sun starts baking the garden and drying out the soil. If you water when the sun is harsh and hot, it will evaporate off the soil, burn your plants’ leaves, and not fully saturate the roots. Perhaps you can make it a point to get up at sunrise on the days where the tempretures rise over 90 so you can enjoy the cool temperatures while tending to your plantings.
2. Water plants in the evening after sunset
Not a morning person? Water in the evening after the sun has set below the tree line and it’s still light outside. Without the sun to dry out the soil, watering at night allows the water to soak into the soil and the roots and the plants can restore their water reserves.
3. Water perennials deeply once a week rather than a little once a day.
This helps to establishes deep root system. For example, hydrangeas can wilt in the hot sun but they do not need to be watered daily. Turn on the hose and let it soak into the root base for a good 4-5 minutes. Do this once or twice a week and your plants will do well even in the hottest of temperatures.
4. Avoid introducing new plants into your garden
Avoid planting new plants in a drought because they will never get the opportunity to establish adequate moisture to establish their roots. They will be doomed to fail under these conditions unless they are drought tolerate plants. Wildflower mixes, sedum, and sunflowers may be able to thrive but save your money and invest in your bulbs to plant in the fall.
5. Utilize mulch in your garden for moisture retention and sun/wind protection
Apply a thick layer of mulch around all of your plants to protect your plants and soil from the sun and wind. This helps keep moisture in and weeds away. Weeds are quite the topic of discussion in the gardening community. If you choose to follow any local Facebook gardening groups for tips and advice, there are some folks embrace the idea that a “weed is in the eye of the beholder”. Mostly it’s because some weeds can be invasive and take over your garden. That’s not something you want to happen because then your plants will suffer and be competing with the invasive weeds for much needed moisture.
6. Let your lawn go dormant.
When you are in the throes of drought, the grass is not always greener on the other side. In fact, embrace the brown and save the water for the plants. Your lawn will come back next season so consider it a loss but a win at the same time! You’re saving money on landscaping and mowing!
The planet we know and love is changing every year and temperatures are rising. Drought is something that we will have to account for in our gardening efforts. Take note of what thrives during these times and sow more of those seeds for the next year’s season.
Robin Dini (@withincreative)
Smells Like Home Gardening Collaborator
Robin Dini is a Connecticut native and resides in a quintessential New England town on the shoreline. Her love for gardening and all things plants and flowers is rooted in her deep connection to nature and her childhood spending countless hours outdoors. Robin’s gardening philosophy is to grow what you like, experiment with new things, and do your research.