Planting in Hot Weather?
Is it too late to plant in July? I’m located in PA.
For us plant geeks, it’s never too late to plant (or so we think!). Ideally you want to finish up your planting when the days are warm and the nights are cool. This promotes the best root development and the least stress on plants. When are the ideal times? In the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, it’s usually mid to late spring, early summer, and early fall.
If you have a busy schedule, it can be pretty difficult to first find all the plants you want – especially with some hard-to-find native plants – and then to actually get them planted, before the really hot weather creeps in. For green industry pros, our clients and their landscapes come first. We are the shoeless children of the shoemaker. By the time summer heats up, we find ourselves with patios full of pots and plant plugs, and no time to plant. Yes, I speak from personal experience.
So what do you do? Well, you could wait until early fall, when conditions are ideal for planting many, but not all, native plants. If you just can’t wait that long, here are some rules of thumb for planting in hot weather:
For areas in your garden that get full sun:
- Plant in the evening and make sure to water new plants in very well after planting.
- Plant on a cloudy day when there is little chance of sunshine. Water well when done.
- Go big with plant material. Larger pots of plants will often have a higher survival rate than small plugs, especially in hot weather.
- Avoid buying overly-fertilized plants that are loaded with salts – they are highly susceptible to drought.
- Buy organically-grown native plants, potted in real soil, not a soilless mix – these will be much more drought-tolerant.
- Skip the traditional fertilizer, which often has drying salts. Instead, toss a handful of compost in the planting hole to increase water retention (excepting plants that don’t like high soil fertility like warm season native grasses such as Little Bluestem).
- For woody plants (trees and shrubs), add a biostimulant that helps water and nutrient uptake (I like Bio-Magic from North Country Organics).
- Mulch around newly planted plants with a 50/50 mix of: an organic mulch (like shredded bark mulch) and organic compost. This will help increase water retention around the plants (exceptions as above).
- Water the roots, not the foliage, with drip irrigation or a soaker hose, and water early in the day to allow foliage to dry off to avoid fungal diseases.
- Ensure that new plants get a good drenching 2 or 3 times a week from you or Mother Nature (being careful not to over-water plants that like drier soil, like Rattlesnake Master).
- Monitor, monitor, monitor. Plant mortality can occur much more quickly on oppressively hot days.
- When planting on hot days, don’t forget to hydrate your plants and yourself!
For areas of your garden that are in shade:
– Plant anytime of day, unless the weather is too oppressive for humans and plants, alike.
– See points 2 through 12 above.
Stay Cool and Keep Planting! from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
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