Gardening in MN Extremes

The past several years have been a lesson in dealing with extremes, extreme dry conditions, extreme wet conditions, extreme hot & cold.  There are several things you can do to help your plants cope.

It’s almost impossible to prepare for every possibility, and if we had a crystal ball, we could know exactly what to expect.  The current forecast is April and May will be warmer than normal, with near-normal precipitation.  Summer will be hotter and drier than normal, with drought a possibility. The hottest periods will occur in early July and early and mid-August.  September and October will be slightly warmer and drier than normal, on average, despite snow in mid- to late October.

1. Choose plants that like dry conditions – Annual – agastache, gazania, begonias, euphorbia, gaura, helenium, lavender, salvia, mandevillea, angelonia, succulents; Perennials –Coneflowers, Gaillardia, Daylilies, Russian Sage, Black-eyed Susan, Salvia, Sedum; Vegetables – peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes. Also, look at planting hybrid vegetables, since they tend to be earlier to fruit, more vigorous, and often bred for specific disease resistance.

2. Location – Plant in beds & place containers in spots with morning sun & afternoon shade, so plants have a reprieve from the hottest sun. Grow in the ground – plants in ground beds will have better ability to retain/access moisture.

3. Soil/Mulch – if soil is sandy or dries out fast, add additional top soil, peat moss & compost to build up organic matter & materials that will hold more moisture.  Top the soil with at least 2” deep mulch to retain moisture, as well as reduce weeds that would fight plants for moisture.

4. Water- let hoses slowly release water at the base of plants, rather than spraying foliage, water first thing in the morning before the sun can make water evaporate, rather than penetrate deep near the roots, even better is to place drip irrigation hoses to slowly irrigate. If plants need water later in the day again, water a second time around 5-6pm, so any foliage can dry off before nightfall, to reduce foliar diseases.

5. Containers – Plant in large pots (ideally over 14” diameter), made from plastic or thick material that will not dry out quickly (unlike clay). If you have moss lined baskets, line them with thicker material like Mossmat with a piece of plastic inside. If you want tomatoes in containers, go for Cherry tomatoes, so that you don’t have to battle Blossom End Rot.  Patio tubs of water plants are a great alternative, since you can just add water as needed.

6. Maintenance – FERTILIZE constantly with Daniels liquid fertilizer so plants have enough energy to keep growing/flowering, as well as deal with extreme conditions.  Cut back in mid summer, so the plants have less foliage/plant mass to put their energy into, thereby giving plants a chance to recover after stressful conditions.

7. Make it EASIER for YOU – water & walk the garden with your coffee in the morning, or spend time weeding, etc. late afternoon/evening when the temperatures are easier to deal with.  Of course, wear a hat/protective clothing & have lots of cold water to drink.