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Gardening

Love the warm weather? Your plants will too - but only if you water them enough

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: June 27
  • Published June 27

Watering is critical, and this is as good a time as any to repair hose leaks. (Photo by Jeff Lowenfels)

Wow. Unusual. Awesome. Fantastic. “Global warming; It is our turn now.” Record-setting and wanted. Are there any other words that could be used by Alaskans to describe the — insert one from above here — weather you can’t help brag about to your family Outside?

Truly hot Anchorage weather is almost an oxymoron. Those outside Alaska cannot understand how it affects us, especially gardeners here. Special legislative sessions? Permanent Fund dividends? Tariffs on fish? Smoke from forest fires? Who cares? This has been a real summer week in Alaska and here is to many more.

Really warm and sunny weather here is surely a unifier. We are all outside doing the same thing: loving it! And one thing we all need to do is water our thirsty plants. Lawns, raspberries, delphiniums and peonies, spruce, birch and tomatoes. They love warmer than usual weather, but only if they have enough water.

Take lawns. We don’t normally water lawns at our house, except for one area in the backyard. In our climate, if you don’t use high-nitrogen fertilizers, you shouldn’t have to. Even when we do it, it is only to green it up fast in the early spring so we can do away with that brown, winter look quickly.

The other exception is when there is a streak of over-70 degree days like we have just had, when failing to water can turn that same patch of lawn back to pre-spring color.

Obviously we need to water more now. And so this is as good a time as any to repair hose leaks. I know I tell you to do this every spring, but no one does. (I also tell you you need to be able to reach all parts of your yard. This is the kind of weather that makes that requirement).

Anyhow, by now the leaks when you water the baskets or while the hose is stretched out over the lawn should be driving you nuts. No hose leaks are allowed in my book. Fix them.

First, working washers are a must. Just because there is one down in that hose end, don’t assume it is working. They wear out. Do yourself a favor and purchase extras, as you will need them for other watering tools over the season, especially if you don’t use quick connectors — which you should.

Fixing other hose leaks is just about as easy. Armed with the hose’s diameter size, get a repair kit for the problem. You may need to replace the male or female ends because you ran over them with a 5,000-pound car or cut out a leaky section because you ran over it with the mower. If you use a hose reel of any kind, avoid the fixes that use those steel bands that are tightened with a screw.

Pay attention to your vegetable plants. Containers can really dry out in hot weather, as can beds without mulch. There is no hard or fast rule when it comes to how much to water to apply, as it depends on your soil. You need to develop your own pattern. Hand-watering with a wand is the best way to go, as it gets you out there, up close to your plants.

How much water for a lawn? I used to go along with the recommendation of 1 inch per week between you and Mother Nature. Now, I think 2 inches or even three is better. The extra inches will be sucked up by appreciative plants on sunny days with temps in the 70s.

Of course, spruce trees will really appreciate water. They use it to produce more sap, which they employ as the main weapon against invasions of beetles. Produce enough sap and the tree can use it to literally push out the invaders. Sap requires water. A sprinkler placed at the drip line, depositing water in both directions, will work, as should watering the lawn the tree grows in. Then move on to your other trees and bushes if they are not in the path of the lawn sprinkler.

Water. Get out there and do it. Sure rain will help, but you want to make sure your plants can take full advantage of the warmth so you get huge berries and so those delphinium flowers open up to the full glory you expect when there is not just 18 hours of sunlight, but hot sun.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar:

Thin vegetables: You know what you are growing looks like. Make sure there is enough room for each plant to produce its crop. Thin!

Slugs: Start looking. Set a few beer or yeast traps OUTSIDE the garden, not in it.

Butter and eggs: Start pulling now. Don’t wait for flowers and seeds.

Nurseries: Sales!

Alaska Botanical Garden: Great place to send visitors to get them out of your hair for a few hours.

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