Get ready, get ready for the summer weather with these tips from OSU Extension

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As the warm weather returns, it’s a good idea to assess your garden for the coming summer. Take a lesson from the historic 2021 thermal dome and prepare to help plants through hot, dry weather as the season progresses.

Here are some expert tips from the Oregon State University Extension Service for preparing for heat and drought. To learn more, read Heatwave in the Garden: How to Identify and Prevent Heat Stress in Plants by Nicole Sanchez, OSU Extension Horticulturist.

Water your landscape strategically. Water early in the morning when temperatures are lower. Rather than a little moisture every day, water plants infrequently and deeply before and during drought. Saturate the area to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. For lawns, add one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water weekly, or allow lawns to brown in the heat of summer. Don’t forget to water the tall trees. A soaker hose wrapped around the root zone of the tree works well.

Mulch to conserve water. Mulches are like putting a lid on a boiling pot and preventing it from evaporating so quickly. They do not replace irrigation, but they help retain water in the soil. Place a layer of mulch 3 to 5 inches thick on the ground. Large bark chips or arborist trimmings work best. As these mulch materials break down, organic matter is added to the soil. For more information on mulching and gardening, see Mulching woody ornamentals with organic material.

Put the right plant in the right place. Design your landscape so your plants don’t compete for shade and water. In other words, group plants with similar light and water needs together.

Prepare the ground properly. Good quality soil helps retain moisture in times of drought. When digging, make sure you can break the soil easily, a sign that water can penetrate the soil without problems. When air and water cannot move easily through the soil, plants can experience disease and root growth problems. To build good quality soil, add organic matter like composted yard waste, composted manure, and leaves from deciduous trees.

Choose plants that are not thirsty in summer. Some plants are so drought tolerant that they only need winter rains to thrive and no irrigation at all during the summer. Cold-tolerant varieties native to the Mediterranean region or plants native to the Pacific Northwest are good choices. For ground covers, these include Point Reyes ceanothus, also known as Ceanothus gloriosusand carpet sweeper, also known as Genista pilosa. As for shrubs, we recommend the varieties below, which are followed by their scientific names:

Dwarf strawberry (Arbutus unedo ‘Compact’)

wild lilac (Ceanothe ‘Victoria’)

Cistus (Cistus X hybrid)

pink sun (Helianthemum nummularium)

flowering gooseberry Ribes sanguineum)

· Lavender, (Lavender spp.)

An extension fact sheet by Neil Bell, retired OSU Extension horticulturist, includes many resources and a list of plants. For more plant ideas, check out Ten Great Versatile Shrubs for Water Gardens.

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