TLC Florist & Greenhouses
By: Mark Hancock

Watering less often, with more, adds up to greater gardening success and helps preserve plants ranging from trees and shrubs to perennial beds and succulents.

“People [want] to water 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there too often, and that won’t work,” said Cindy Townsend, assistant nursery manager for TLC Florist & Greenhouses Inc. “I tell people: Deep-water slowly. You can plant about anything if you water properly.”

The state’s drought map, released early this month by the U.S. Drought Monitor, shows Oklahoma County and surrounding counties in severe to extreme drought. Experts say recent rains have brought some relief, but the drought isn’t over yet.

“The ground has a memory of what happened the last couple of years,” said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “When you get farther down into the soil where roots really need it, it’s still dry.”

Oceanic patterns have swung to be less favorable for extended wet periods, he said, but how fast it warms up and the rainfall that’s received through about mid-June are keys to breaking the drought.

In the dry and uncertain meantime, a gardener’s hope springs eternal.

Townsend said gardeners can reduce watering down to every three to four days — even once a week — if done properly: slow and deep to reduce runoff and avoid just wetting the root crowns.

She said focusing on heat- and drought-tolerant plants will be helpful, but won’t stop losses altogether if irrigation methods are not con sidered.

When watered slowly and deeply, the saturated root ball helps the tree or shrub survive the hard times. Townsend said TLC is seeing increased purchases of succulents and other drought-resistant plants such as artemisias, holly varieties and Mexican feather grass.

She recommended amending soil with compost to lower pH levels, increase nutrients and break up the soil.

“Compost is your best friend,” Townsend said.

Moreover, she noted that Oklahomans increasingly are using expanded shale, which absorbs moisture and helps aerate the soil. With gardening zones being adjusted farther north recently, gardeners are borrowing ideas from neighbors to the south.

“It’s not spongy, but it’s airy,” Townsend said. “They have been using it in Texas for quite a few years.”

According to the Climatological Survey, patterns in the next several weeks will be telling and show how the area will fare this summer — and if the drought might break.

Until then, get your contrary garden ready for the possibility of a long, hot summer.

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