By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Now that it is dryer than a camel’s toenails, we either have to water or let everything die. There is a good way and a bad way to water. Start with the vegetable garden. Water the way you always do. Now, using your 6- inch garden trowel, dig a hole 6 inches deep. If there is not wet soil that whole depth, water until it is.  Now you know how long to let the sprinkler go on the rest of the yard and it may be many hours. 

One thing many people don’t think about watering is mature trees. On a hot day a mature tree will evaporate hundreds of gallons of water. A tree needs to have at least some of it replaced to live. If trees are water stressed, they will start dying from the top down. You may not notice it this year but next summer, maple trees in particular will have a bouquet of dead branches sticking out of the top of the tree, not a pretty sight.

Watering trees or shrubs that have been in the ground less than five years is critical. They are not fully established yet and need some TLC. Never fertilize any plant when it is stressed, especially water stressed. It is apt to turn up its toes. If you haven’t mulched yet, get to it. Mulch will help keep any moisture we get in the soil. It also helps keep the roots of the mulched plant cooler.

There are some spots that just will not grow grass. It is usually because it is shaded by trees. Dead shade can be difficult to plant. You can just ignore it, mulch it with wood chips, introduce creeping Charlie (it loves shade) or make it into a beautiful garden. This is an area where hostas come into their own. Many of them will prosper in full or partial shade. They come in a deep blue, mostly yellow, striped with white or yellow or green with blue patches and almost any color combo of blues, greens, yellow, and white. Leaves can be puckered or smooth. Round, spear shaped, twisted, narrow or wide.

To get an idea of how your area can look, visit a Hosta garden. In this type of garden, the hostas are often planted right up to the trees. They are planted in the hollows between the tree’s roots, you can add a little soil to get them well rooted but never add more than about 6 inches as many trees will not tolerate having their roots covered.  If you want flowers, you can add martagon lilies if there is a patch of light shade. Columbine will do well in this type of garden too. Do mulch around your plants to help them look their best. A Hosta garden can be spectacular if done right.

You can start out with small plants and the cheaper varieties. That way, getting started won’t hurt your wallet too badly. If your friends or neighbors have hostas, they will often share a few with you as they can grow out of their beds and need to be thinned. In an all-Hosta garden, this usually isn’t a problem as you want them a bit crowded. This is a tough plant. you can dig or thin it almost any time of the year. If the plant has been In the same area for many years, be prepared to saw the plant apart. Once established, there will be little weeding needed.   

Keep the hoses busy until we get some good, soaking rains. That is, unless you enjoy that fried look in your yard.