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Issue: June 12, 2010

Heat of summer is a good time for planting, but difficult for the planter

Q. This spring was cold and now it is hot. It seems too hot to be putting new plants into the garden. However, some nurseries are saying that it is still OK to plant. Is that true?

Mike

A. When people say it is too hot to plant now, many are referring to their own comfort. From the perspective of some plants, summer is a good time to plant. Many plants can be planted now in anticipation of the monsoon rains that will help them establish. It is important that the plants receive enough water when they are planted, and perhaps a little shade and wind protection. If the monsoon rains are delayed or fail to come, irrigation should be continued.

Many xeriscape plants do best when planted just before or during the monsoon. Other garden plants not considered xeriscape plants can also be planted now. Portulaca and other heat loving plants will richly reward gardeners who plant now. This is especially true for many xeriscape plants that are tolerant of our hot, dry summers. They are genetically programmed to produce new roots during the monsoon season to take advantage of the moisture that usually comes during the monsoon.

Xeriscape plants are usually thought of as plants for low water landscapes, and that is true. They are also plants that can provide a long season of flowers and textures during the heat of summer when other plants are fading or require greatly increased irrigation. These include shrubs and trees that can provide color, fragrance, textures, and a sense of accomplishment for the gardener while asking very little in return.

From the gardener's perspective, however, this is a difficult time to be working in the garden. People who do not work regularly outdoors will certainly feel the heat. All gardeners should wear wide-brimmed hats to protect from the intense sunlight. Long-sleeve shirts and long pants are also wise for gardeners working mid-day and into the afternoon. This may seem hotter, but protection from the sun is important for the gardener. Besides, these absorb perspiration and as it evaporates it helps cool the gardener. The sweatband in the hat keeps salty perspiration out of the eyes of gardeners and avoids the need to constantly wipe the forehead.

Wise gardeners will garden early in the morning and late in the afternoon. During the heat of the mid-day they can go indoors and watch gardening shows on television, or just sit in the shade admiring their work and planning the next step in their gardening. Oh yes, they can also enjoy the birds, butterflies, and other visitors to their garden.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h or http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.