Whether you're in a record-breaking drought or just a gap between rainy days, it pays to give your plants a little help on hot days. The best thing to do is grow plants that don't need irrigation, but even drought-tolerant plants need help getting established. Some plants just need to be relocated to another, more moist, part of the garden. To prevent the evaporation of moisture and to reduce competition from sprouting weeds, add a three-inch layer of mulch to your soil. Water plants in the morning so that it has a chance to reach the roots before evaporating, and try to water the soil rather than the foliage since plants can't drink water through their leaves. Duh!
|Succulents like this Haworthia take drought in stride.|
Make it Livable
Repeat after me: The patio/deck/lawn/balcony is not a dumping ground. It's a living area and should be kept swept clean and picked up the same way that you would treat a room of your house. Arrange the outdoor room in a way that is both inviting and practical, furnishing it with a table and chairs, shelves and occasional seating. Shade it with umbrellas, a pergola or awnings to make the space bearable on a hot day, and make sure that you always go outside with a cool drink in hand. If the patio is dirty, rent a pressure washer; and if the deck is faded, give it a facelift.
|I really need to sweep out there.|
|This Cryptanthus is easy to dig up in winter, grow as a houseplant and replant in spring.|
Even if you're one of the majority who lives in a decidedly un-tropical area, you can still grow tropical plants outdoors whenever frost isn't an issue - because they love the heat. Bring potted houseplants outdoors to a shady spot for a a summer vacation, plant tropical bulbs and dig them up before the first frost, or just grow tropical flowers as annuals and save the seeds. Great edibles for the summer garden include sweet potato vine, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, yardlong beans and okra, though many other veggies will do well with a little afternoon shade. If you want something that's edible and really tropical looking, head to the grocery store and pick up some organic turmeric, ginger and taro roots and plant them as summer bulbs.
|The bromeliad, elephant ear and gingers pictured can all be dug up in winter as houseplants or bulbs, respectively.|
|A few weeds nearly ruin the effect of this little fairy door at the foot of a maple tree.|
It may be hot out, but you'll probably notice that lots of weeds are are still perfectly content to flourish in the sweltering sun. The trick is to casually pull them without giving it much though, much like you would pick up toys from the living room floor. Okay, maybe that reference only applies to parents like myself. Still, persistence pays off. Mulch is also worthwhile, if only because it keeps weed seeds from getting a foothold and sprouting. There is no reason to use chemicals or even natural remedies if you're willing to work a little. Buy a good mattock (like a pickaxe for weeds) and use it to chop away at stubborn weeds and yank them out beneath the roots. Simply put, all you need to do is mulch and mattock.
|The more plants, the less room for weeds!|
|Here I've given the lawn straight boundaries to simplify mowing.|
Mowing and string-trimming doesn't have to be a chore. Eliminate hard-to-mow corners of the lawn by replacing them with low-maintenance garden beds, mulch or pavers. Simplify the outline of your lawn so that mowing can be done with minimal effort, and consider adding a 'mowing strip' of bricks or pavers on the lawn's edge to keep grass from encroaching upon beds and to simplify edging chores. Use topsoil to fill holes and bumps in the lawn so that you get an even cut and eliminate trip hazards all at once.
|This area under the trees was impossible to mow, so I turned it into a mulched path.|