By Patricia Drackett
Director of the Crosby Arboretum and
assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Now that the weather is reaching temperatures of 100 degrees and more, how is your garden doing? We’re keeping a watchful eye on the pollinator garden recently, as it sure doesn’t take long for plants to crisp up in dry soil and blazing sun. If you are still gardening, you are most likely already working early in the day and wearing a cooling towel around your neck to prevent sunburn and keep yourself a bit cooler. Carry water with you and keep hydrated! Also, consider adding “extras” such as granulated electrolyte powders to your water, which can prevent muscle cramps from being dehydrated.
How are the new plants you installed this spring doing? Now is the time that most of us will retreat to the cool air conditioning for the summer and our only involvement with the garden will be spent looking at it from indoors. So, I hope you put your new plants somewhere where you watch the butterfly, bird, and hummingbird activity from your sofa or kitchen table.
You don’t have to install an expensive automatic irrigation system to provide the water for your landscape beds. One wise and inexpensive way to regularly provide water to your garden is with a simple manual timer connected to a hose and sprinkler. One type of sprinkler that is very useful is the “rain tower” shape that has a rotor head held high on a metal tripod. It is worth spending a little more to have a durable metal sprinkler rather than one with plastic parts that won’t last as long. We use this kind of tower sprinkler to water our pollinator garden, and you are welcome to come take a look.
Sometimes the old methods that have been tried and true for decades – still are! I remember being impressed by a client about twenty years ago who was a long-time gardener who watered a humongous backyard of turf and landscape beds with only one of these six-foot tall sprinklers. She would simply move it several times a day. Even in periods of drought, her backyard was lush and green.
Another smart watering system are the old-fashioned flat sprinkler hoses. One side, when turned with the holes up “sprinkles” a fountain along its length. Turned holes-down, it simply soaks into the bed. Sprinkler hoses are great for linear plantings along a driveway, property perimeter, or a house foundation. We’re currently using this method on our visitor center deck, where we have the hose running along the middle of our container plants for sale, on a timer system. This keeps our plants consistently watered.
Another method that needs little to no attention to watering is to install plants that love standing water, if you have areas that stay consistently wet. Use high-performing, low-maintenance blooming summer perennials such as Texas Star Hibiscus, Cardinal Flower, Stokes’ Aster, or American Crinum Lily. Shrubs that like wet feet include Sweet Pepper bush, Virginia Willow, and Buttonbush.
One product you may not have heard about is called a “cool vest”. We have a couple of these at the garden for volunteer use. A search for those keywords will give you many results to consider, in a range of costs. High-end vests are very durable and made for those who work in outdoor professions. Some are evaporative – just soak them in water and they will be good for hours. Others are placed in the freezer, letting you go through the next day being cooled by insertable ice packs. I’ll never forget the day that Arboretum member Theresa Anoskey visited with her ice-pack cool vest on a hot day. She found me working in the pollinator garden (a rare sight since I’m usually inside on my computer). Theresa took off her vest and instructed me to try it on, which made quite an impression. She’s lucky I gave it back!
Because of the huge response to the “Beekeeping for Beginners” program last week with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith, we have opened a second program on Friday, July 15 from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. The program is free for Arboretum members and $5 for non-members. Sign up for the “Introduction to Birding” walk with birding enthusiast Jessica Martin, July 16 from 9:30 to 10:30 AM. Learn tips and resources as well as equipment for beginners (and up) and common species of birds found in the area. Cost is $2 for Arboretum members and $7 for non-members. Please call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs.
To receive regular notices of upcoming activities, sign up on under “Events” on our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/, see our website calendar, or visit our Facebook page. The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and is open 9 AM to 4:30 PM Wednesday through Sunday.