By now your perennials are probably beginning to whimper - enough of this drought! This time of year things don't look so pretty. Dead-heading,
watering and weeding in our late August heat tests the resolve of even the most ardent gardener.
Plants seem to know the right time to slow growth and conserve energy for their roots, going dormant until better times come in the next growing season. Perennials that have stopped blooming can be cut back and with a little luck will sprout some fresh green leaves, but probably no blossoms. If they go completely dormant, mark where they were so you don't plant over them.
We do seem to be getting a few more sprinkles in various parts of the county. That's good news, but it's still not enough rain for your plants. To keep you garden at it's best, water until the soil is moist 1 inch down. Check weekly. To do this, you can take a core sample to 1" using a small bulb digger,
available at garden centers, for planting fall bulbs (you can also use the bulb digger to aerate compacted areas of soil).
Adding composted organic matter is probably the most efficient way to bring health and vitality to your garden plants. Adding compost to your garden soil will
allow water, air and vital nutrients to move more freely around plant roots and
retain more moisture with less water. Plants have a better chance of
survival in late summer when it's hot and dry, if the soil has been deeply amended with compost.
As always, it's important to choose plants suited to our Loudoun environment. It's
a real temptation to buy plants featured in glossy magazines or at the nursery
where plants look so fresh (remember they came from a greenhouse under ideal conditions and are watered daily). As beautiful as they are, will they survive in the real world of our environment of clay soil and hot, humid, dry summers? Maybe.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a more carefree garden? One that requires less time
and attention, fewer pesticides, fertilizer and water? Native plants are
uniquely adapted to thrive under the conditions we have in our Loudoun
environment. Natives have evolved over time to our climate, soils,rainfall, drought and frost.
If you think native plants are those weedy looking plants you see along roadways,
think again. Many plants you have in your garden may be natives. Black-eyed
susan, coneflowers, columbines and bee balm are just a few of the beauties in
this category. Comprehensive lists of Virginia natives can be obtained from the GreenSpring Gardens website which also contains lists of recommended native herbaceous perennials for shade, native herbaceous perennials for sun, and native plants to attract birds.
If you are interested in using native plants in your garden, on September 15th, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will be sponsoring a native plant sale at the Rust Nature Sanctuary, 802 Children's Center Rd., Leesburg, Va., 9am to 4pm. There will be experts on hand to answer any questions you may have on native plants. It's a good opportunity to meet the people who grow them. For more information go to http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Event_Native_Plant_Sale_Fall.html
Do you have an interest in mastering your gardening skills? Then become a Master Gardener! Classes will begin in February of 2013. More information is available at http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/