How to Plant Shrubs and Perennials in Summer Heat

Glowing American flag is backlit by setting sun next to front door. Pots of fern grace the porch.
The 4 of July and the dog days of summer are upon us
Yes, it is that time of year. The Fourth of July looms and the heat arrived just in time for the festivities. So did the plant sales at local nurseries around the city as they tried to rid themselves of water-hogging inventory before even hotter and drier conditions set in. My buddy Lance West at NewsChannel4 and I are easy targets for these bargains, and in the course of discussing our respective scores before a 4 YOUR GARDEN  segment last Friday (watch past episodes on-line here)

Lance West and Linda Vater of NewsChannel4 on KFOR in OKC
Frivolity sometimes ensues before air time.

he suggested that it would be a great topic for an upcoming program. And while my first response is always to plant in spring or fall...fall being even better in the South than spring (so as to get those root systems established before the onslaught of summer heat)...I conceded that sometimes this was not possible.

Consequently, here is a preview on some tips and tricks for summer planting in Oklahoma's intense heat and sometime drought.

Dig a huge hole and loosen soil.
Dig a huge hole to accommodate the new plant

#1 Dig a huge hole. Plant care tags will tell you to dig a hole two and a half times the diameter of the pot. I say, in intense heat and hard pan clay like the picture here......make it at least 3+ times the root ball size. As best you can, loosen the soil around the perimeter.  This will be easier after you...
Use a shovel handle to indicate where the top of the hole is to plant top of root ball at soil level.
 #2 Saturate both the hole itself and the root ball of the plant beforehand. Fill the hole with water, let it absorb and drain. Loosen the edges of the planting hole one more time to permit even greater eventual root penetration. Fill hole again with water, let it absorb and drain. Rough up the bottom of the hole, sprinkle in a dose of a long acting fertilizer like Osmocote (find it here). If planting in an area with no danger of overwatering, add some Soil Moist Granules (here) to minimize water use in the future.

Position root ball (gently loosen its roots first) with the top of the plant level with the top of the hole. Use the handle of your shovel, or in my case, the stalk of a dry allium :) as your guide.

Back fill with compost and dirt.
#3 Back fill hole with half compost and half soil. I like the fine pine blend of HAPI-GROW Landscaper Mix/Soil Conditioner you can buy at Lowe's. Stock up when it is available as it is very popular and they often sell out. Gently firm soil. It helps if you are wearing waterproof polka-dot gloves from the Dollar Store. 

If you are using drip irrigation or a bubbler to water this area, position head or hose accordingly to make sure the plant gets adequate moisture in the future. Still, as the plant is getting established in the heat of the summer, with dry, desiccating winds, you will probably need to give it a hand-water drink every day or so depending on conditions. Keep this in mind if you are going on vacation and will not be able to tend it.

Back fill with compost and dirt.If you are providing adequate water,  but the leaves are showing signs of distress and/or heat stroke, consider creating some artificial shade until temps moderate.

Finally, top dress with a thin layer of mulch and water again gently. If your memory is bad like moi....

you might want to TEMPORARILY leave the plant tag in place until what you have planted where takes root in your head as well as your garden. Just saying'.

locate drip irrigation around base of plant
Water in newly installed shrub.
Mulch baae of plant with a thin later of compost.

(Not very exciting eye candy imagery but hopefully, they make my point)
The well-watered end result. Nestled and tucked in.

Perennials, like this shrub, should be treated in the same exacting manner. Planting in the heat of summer is definitely a case of:

*If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

*Go big or go home.

*An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

*Put a $1 plant in a $10 hole.

*Haste makes waste.

Or, to put it another way.....

Picture of Linda Vater in straw hat sitting in garden.

 It will probably die if you don't.  Toodles, Linda

To find out what I just planted, the color palette it will generate, the season it will show its stuff, and the aesthetic I am trying to create.....stay tuned for an upcoming post.


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