CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dealing with drought is not fun. The leaves on our trees and bushes are curling and dropping, and we're not even in an "official" drought.
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, small areas in the eastern part of West Virginia are in an abnormally dry spell. Driving through the Shenandoah Valley earlier this week showed lots of brown leaves on mature trees.
The one-month forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere, says the Kanawha Valley will be having a typical summer, not any drier or wetter than usual.
But when the temperatures hit the 90s and the garden seems to wither, use these tips to help with water -- and plant -- management.
Stop fertilizing. According to Fine Gardening magazine, heavily fertilized plants produce more leaves, which use more water.
Joyce Latimer, extension specialist at Virginia Tech, says to avoid watering by hand -- it often wastes water as there is excess runoff, and water does not penetrate beyond the top 1 inch of soil. This irrigation practice harms plants by forcing root growth too close to the surface. If you must water by hand, place a 5-gallon bucket with a few holes in the bottom next to the plant and fill it with water; when it is has drained, move it to the next plant and refill.
Water between 4 and 9 a.m. If you're not inclined to set your alarm for that ungodly hour, buy a timer to put on your soaker hoses. There is a wide variety of types available (battery and nonbattery, dual control, multistation, rain sensor) in a wide price range ($15 to $100).
Bill Mills, garden guru at TerraSalis, was featured on the website and podcast "Real Dirt" by Ken Druse. Called a "gardening superstar" with 16 books, frequent television appearances and many articles and appearances to his credit, Druse calls West Virginia a "happening place" and discusses Mills' recent projects, many using exclusively native plants. Check it out at www.kendruse.com. It's the June 25 podcast, "My Designer Friend -- the Salt of The Earth!"
On a recent visit to Valley Gardens, I saw lots of folks clutching plant lists as they wandered through the nursery. Manager Susan Bryant has wisely printed several suggested garden designs, complete with plant suggestions.
"Susan's Top 10 Perennials for Shady Locations" lists hosta, fern, astilbe, bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabile), viola, Liriope muscari, columbine (Aquilegia), turtlehead (Chelone lyoni), whitewood aster (Aster divaricatus) and coral bells (Heuchera).