Gardening 101

Start in Fall to Prepare Your Garden for the Hot Summer

Butterfly weed

This last summer was hot! Consecutive days in the mid-90s were tough on my garden and left me with a few casualties. Many of the plants in the garden were stressed and needed extra attention. It’s not something I am fond of doing in the heat of summer.

So, in the fall I am getting an early start and with a better plan. Here are some guidelines and plant suggestions that will lighten your workload and maximize your success in summer.

Plants for Hot Summers

First, try to stick with native plants. They are less demanding, and using native plants helps to sustain native butterflies, beneficial insects, and many species of birds. These birds and insects will then help control many of the diseases common in our landscapes.

Common Witch Hazel
Hairy coreopsis
Virginia Sweetspire
Wild blue phlox
Black-Eyed Susan
Maiden Hair Fern
Wild Indigo
Wild Columbine
Jo-Pye Weed

For a list of more great native plant options check out the North Carolina Native Plant Society website:

Planting Strategies

Make sure you are installing any new plants in the best conditions possible. Do your research. If the tag says full sun, know it won’t do well without 6 to 8 hours of sunlight; roses are a good example of this. Part sun or part shade means 3 to 6 hours of sun a day and full shade means lack of sun or less than two hours per day. Personally, I would only expose a shaded plant to the morning sun, which is not as harsh as the afternoon sun.

Lastly, plant any trees or shrubs in fall, or early winter. Technically, you can plant all year long in our area of North Carolina, but the amount of effort to establish a new plant will be drastically more difficult in the summer months.

Temperatures reaching the high 90s for an extended period of time will cause most plants to struggle, making them more susceptible to disease and requiring more time to become established. This, in turn, will require more effort on your part.

In general, a new plant is established once the root system is developed; and in order to know this, you should see new growth on the stems. However, keep in mind that it can take a shrub up to a year to get established in its new environment and up to three years for a tree.

Start planning in the fall for your summer garden and have all your new plants in by winter so they will be rooted and healthy before the summer begins.

Avoid planting trees or shrubs in the summer, as it will make your life a whole lot harder than it needs to be.

Gardening is a labor of love, but it can also be a lot of work. Wise planning now will not only make your life easier but your plants healthier and you happier.

Melody Hughes is a Wake County Extension Master Gardener and also writes garden articles for the “Cary Citizen.”

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