Heat stress

We were away from home for five days during last week’s extreme heat wave, so my shrubs, trees, and perennials received no watering (I do not have a sprinkler system). Yet they came through it just fine, because they are native to this area and well-adapted to my site. In other words, I don’t try to grow shade plants in the sun, or wetland plants in dry sandy soil, or tropical annuals in a temperate zone with extreme temperature changes. So once my plants are well-established, they can do without supplemental watering. Of course, if I had planted any shrubs or trees this year, I would be watering them throughout the season during dry spells. But established woody plants and perennials rarely need to be watered.

Annuals and potted plants are different. Because I knew the heat wave would continue while I was gone, I thoroughly watered both the potted herbs and the vegetable garden before I left: I watered the pots until the water ran through the bottoms, and I gave the vegetable garden about an inch and a half of water the morning I left. The vegetable garden did just fine, although I lost one pot of herbs, the smallest pot, which contained oregano and dill. Poor things.

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Effects of heat stress on oregano planted in a small pot.

I did see a bit of heat stress on some woody shrubs, but it’s nothing the plants can’t survive. Both spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) lost some lower leaves, but as the pictures show, the growing tips remain healthy. They’ll both be just fine.

Effects of heat stress on spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

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The perennial garden, made up of tough sun- and heat-loving native prairie plants, couldn’t be happier, no matter how hot it gets. But I certainly have to thin out some of those Rudbeckias next spring.

No effects of heat stress on prairie plants.

Planting natives is xeriscaping and sustainable gardening at its simplest.

And what about the lawn? We never water it, and it’s still quite green. We’ve had plenty of rain this season.

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