Finally, we are seeing the end of this crazy summer. Everyone and everything is looking a little tattered and stressed out with the heat, dry weather and smoke. We are supposed to get much cooler temperatures the end of this week but we have a ways to go before the rains come to put the fires out.
The fire danger is still critical throughout the area. The smallest spark from a lawnmower blade hitting a rock, a chainsaw or a backyard fire pit can send us all running from the flames. Even if it seems cooler, don’t even think about doing anything with a flame until we get some good soaking rains and the county lifts the burn ban.
Several people have asked me if the smoke can damage plants. In general; probably not. The reduced sunlight probably slowed photosynthesis but not enough to hurt the plants. They are already starting to prepare for fall as the sun slips lower in the southern sky. The fine ash some people found on their plants can easily be hosed off.
We broke the 100-year-old, all-time record for the number of days without measurable rain last Sunday and it doesn’t look like we are going to get any in the near future. That means it continues to be very important to make sure plants, lawns and trees are getting enough water. Pay special attention to plants that were planted in the last year. They don’t have a fully developed root system that can draw moisture from deep in the soil. Some of them may look crispy around the edges but they will survive with a little extra water. Lay out soaker hoses, small sprinklers or the hose and let them run for six or more hours to get water deep into the soil. Pay special attention to trees planted in lawn areas. Lawn systems usually aren’t on long enough to get water down the foot or more where the roots are. Increase time on your lawn systems so that it is getting 2 inches of water for the next few weeks. Lawns that go dormant under drought stress are more prone to weeds in the spring.
Lastly, because everything in the wild has dried out, the deer and other critters are moving into our ready-made garden salad bars for snacks of anything that tastes reasonably good. Apply a good dose of a commercial deer repellent every couple of weeks to any plants you don’t want them nibbling on until the plants die down. In my garden this time of year they are eating bishop’s weed, horseradish leaves and lily-of-the-valley that they don’t touch earlier in the summer when they have more appealing choices. Check your deer fences to make sure the deer haven’t found a way through or under them. A deer will repeatedly test a fence until they find a way in.
Pat Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening. com.