Planting in hot weather chancy
Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
Less than two weeks from the summer solstice, and there you sit, staring balefully at all those nursery pots of trees and shrubs in your driveway that should have been put into the ground weeks or months ago. We all know that late planting carries with it all manner of pitfalls.
We will be facing scorching heat very soon, and indeed have seen 90 degrees or more already. Those plants are no more capable of coping with it than humans are. They will need an undue amount of coddling.
Woody things planted out in fall or winter are infinitely more prepared. Their roots have, hopefully, gained some purchase into the surrounding soil and are able to absorb what water is there.
On the other hand, new plants have roots confined to the shape of the pot. They dry out far quicker than those whose roots have quested afield. Adding to the problem is the current practice of growers using so-called “soil conditioner” as the planting medium. This consists of coarsely ground bark and very little else.
This is fine and dandy in nursery growing areas with automated watering and fertilizing. In fact, plants grown thusly exhibit extremely rapid growth, just what the grower desires. The quicker the plants attain salable size, the less the expense and the greater the profit margin.
However, once the plant is set out in the garden, the roots almost immediately begin to dry out. Without virtually constant watering the specimen can go under quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. The hotter the weather, the more severe the problem.
It’s not just woody things, either. Just lately, in fact, I set out several perennials which would wilt the next day following copious hand watering. After several days of succoring, the problem gradually eased. Herbaceous things, as a rule, root out more quickly than trees and shrubs.
Automatic irrigation, needless to say, alleviates the situation, but even then, if the watering cycle in a particular area is of short duration, not enough water falls to satisfy the newly planted things.
A grass watering timer set-up, for instance, which may not water for more than 15 minutes in a given area, is entirely insufficient for woodies and perennials.
Yes, it is entirely feasible to plant all summer. But nobody said it was easy, and things can rapidly go awry.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 6.22.10