By now there have been all too many stories about the heat that has enveloped the East as well as much of the country. Nature is neither cruel nor kind. It just is. And we have to accept and deal with it. Acceptance has meant determining what we decide to pay attention to in the garden and what must make it on its own. At Green Chimneys this has been a tougher choice as the water pressure in the Children’s Garden is so low only a trickle of water is available at any one time. Irrigation has been ineffective. So many of the fields have remained parched. The beets, which last year were lush and thick with growth, are just tiny stubs sticking out of the ground. Weeding is a dusty exercise as the roots barely hold on to the dry soil. Last week the temperatures were in the 90s and peaked over 100. We tried to work in the mornings but by noon it was just too hot and we decided to give up any efforts to weed or work in the garden. Better to stay inside with air-conditioned comfort.
At home, I had similar choices to make but decided to fight the elements by watering and weeding. More watering than anything else. The plants that are the most unforgiving in this climate are the flower boxes containing annuals as well as our indoor potted plants that take up residence on our balcony for the summer. They need watering sometimes twice a day, particularly if they are out in the sun. But most plants can take a deep every-other-day watering and get along nicely. The only solace in this type of climate is that the slugs have burrowed deep into the ground, leaving my greens and other plants alone.
I have focused more on the flowering plants and the vegetables as their production (and beauty) are more needy of water than the trees or large bushes like my rhododendrons. These denizens are used to long periods without water and can tolerate it without much fuss. The same cannot be said of the hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, tomatoes and squashes whose blossoms will either droop or drop without the needed hydration.
But I haven’t minded watering too much as it gives me a chance to think about the day ahead (or behind) in a quiet way. I can look carefully at all my different plants to see how they are doing and if they need a nip here or if an errant poison ivy or grape vine plant has taken root somewhere in my yard. Watering was one of the ways I become more enthused about gardening decades ago as it became my balm after difficult and long days in the office. Rather than soak my liver in alcohol or my family with rude comments, I retreated to the garden and relaxed with a watering can and hose. I quickly become human and able to care for my family.
Most days I spend between 60 and 90 minutes watering. Last Wednesday because of some travel, I spent nearly 4 hours getting my plants wet. With a pouring rain last night, the first in weeks, we have finally got a break as I woke up to a cool temperature of 62 degrees and soaked soil. I don’t have to water for at least a day or two. And now I have some time to harvest. The tomatoes have started to come in, the potatoes are ready to dig out and I need to pull some blueberries off the bushes.