Friday, June 01, 2007

Drought stress - the bane of my gardening life

When it comes to drought, I don't know who suffers more, me or the plants.

When it gets really hot and dry, I actually get what I call drought stress, which shows up as insomnia, depression, even high blood pressure, believe it or not.

We've now been at this country garden thing for nine years - we moved here exactly nine years ago yesterday - and most of those summers have been lacking in enough rainfall. Having a huge country garden and being on a well doesn't make watering easy.

There's no irrigation system, but we have hundreds of feet of hoses that we can drag around - one of my least favorite jobs. We also have inground cisterns that collect rainwater from the roof of both the house and the barn. When it doesn't rain for weeks on end and we get desperate to water the plants, the cisterns can be filled with trucked-in water. Last summer, I bought five truckloads of water at $115 a pop.

Most of our plants are tough, drought-tolerant perennials and grasses, so we water only the plants that need it: new perennials, trees and shrubs, the rock garden, the shade garden and certain sun-drenched areas that get fried. We don't water the lawn: there's too much of it.

The trouble is remembering where the new plantings are: they're spread out all over the place, a new tree here, a new shrub over there, and odd patch of annuals and perennials in this bed or that one.

This year I'm determined not to let drought get to me, but it isn't easy. Already we've had a record dry spring: little rain in the latter part of April, with none at all in the first half of May. A few thundershowers brought the total for May to just under two inches. The landscape isn't looking too bad yet because we had a wet fall and reasonable snow cover over the winter.

With this dry trend, I'm not looking forward to the rest of the summer (I hate heat and humidity too). I can only hope the tide turns. My problem is this: I'm a perfectionist, and there's nothing like drought to make a garden look sad instead of thriving. And that's really frustrating after spending all of April and May to get it looking great.

I guess these trials test if we really are devoted gardeners. On the battle of gardeners versus recalcitrant nature, one of my favorite garden wits, the acerbic Henry Mitchell, wrote:
"There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises."
For a change, Mother Nature, how about a little cooperation this season?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for visiting this site. I have a new country garden blog and I will no longer be publishing comments at this blog. If you have a question or comment about the topic here, please use the contact form at my new blog to get in touch with me.

-Yvonne, aka Country Gardener