OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Many Oklahoma gardens are looking anything but green during the triple digit temperatures. Experts told KFOR to keep the plants alive, gardeners may need to switch up their routine.
“Everything is suffering,” said Darrell Pothorst, Nursery Manager of TLC Garden Centers.
“They really just are trying to survive,” said Linda Vater, a celebrity gardener.
Vater and Pothorst said watering is key during this latest heat wave. The name of the game is to be efficient and conservative.
“The best time to water is generally when it’s cooler outside. So, early in the morning or late in the evening,” said Pothorst.
“If you watered later in the afternoon, there’s too much transpiration,” said Vater. “So, you could literally water and that water just blows away in the wind or immediately evaporates.”
Vater and Pothorst said where you water is also key.
“Most plants right now will get the most bang for their watering buck if you do it right at the root zone,” said Vater.
“The goal is just to make it to where the foliage is not wet with the sun beating down on it, because those little water droplets are like magnifying glasses and they will burn the foliage,” said Pothorst. “If you have a sprinkler system that is rotating and hitting the foliage every day or every other day, that will cause damage to the foliage.”
Vater suggests using a hose, irrigation system or an in-ground irrigation system that has a dedicated bubbler head right at the base of the plant. Pothorst suggests a soaker hose.
“It makes it a lot easier on you. You can just put it out there, let it run for a couple of hours, saturate that entire area really good,” said Pothorst. “Then go out there and turn it off and you’re good for a couple of days.”
Vater and Pothorst said you want to avoid spraying the plant from the top. Vater said if you’re trying to cool it down, wash off the leaves, or spray away pests, keep your foliar watering to the morning.
“If you do foliar watering in the evening, then it doesn’t dry as quickly and that’s when it can stay on the plants, on the leaves, and that’s when you may run into mold, fungal problems, disease problems, things like that, that thrive in wet conditions,” Vater said.
The experts said if the plant has been planted within the past year, it hasn’t had time to grow deep roots and need extra care and water. Potted plants and hanging plants will also need to be watered more frequently.
“They have less volume of soil that contains water from which they can draw,” said Vater.
“My pots at home, I’m really having to water every single day,” said Pothorst. “They dry out so fast, especially with the wind.”
Over and underwatering can be hard to differentiate. They both have yellow or dry crispy leaves. Pothorst said the best way to determine if they need to be watered is to move the mulch away, stick your finger in the dirt near the base of the plant, then pull it out. If your finger is somewhat clean-dry, the plant needs watering. If your finger is dirty, wait a couple of days.
Vater and Pothorst said right now plants and lawns do not want to be fed with fertilizer. That will be better and more efficient in the Fall.
“They don’t need a nudge telling them right now to work harder in this heat to produce more blooms or fruit or lush new green turf,” said Vater.
“If plants do happen to go through and put off new growth, right now, that new growth is going to be so tender and so soft, it will just fry in the sun,” said Pothorst.
For that same reason, the experts want you to put away the pruning shears unless you’re cutting away dead foliage.
“You want to cut that back to the base and give it a fresh start,” said Vater. “But I would be careful about pruning anything like evergreens or some shrubs.”
“A lot of deciduous trees you can prune right now, like oaks and elms and things like that. But when in doubt, I would probably say wait until fall,” said Pothorst.
While the plants may not be hungry, some pests are. Right now, Vater said she’s seeing spider mites, white flies and bud worms.
“If you have lots of buds that just never come into flower and they look tattered or they look kind of like they’ve got holes in them, chances are a Bud Worm is their culprit,” said Vater.
Vater said your first mode of attack will be to physically pick off the worms or spray them with a hose. If that doesn’t work, reach for organic bug spray.