Plants for Extremes

By Abby Fullen

There’s no doubt this winter season has been a tough one, and just within the past couple of years we were thirsty for help to get through the drought.  What’s a gardener to do with these almost impossible extremes? Well don’t fret, because with some simple tips you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a healthy garden through the brutal winter cold and fan-waving heat.

Start by familiarizing yourself with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and get to know the plants best suited for that zone. The Midwest is generally in zones 3-6.

According to our blogger horticulturist, Debra Knapke, you should keep these ideas in mind for the cold:

  • Plants don’t feel wind chill. We may not be able to feel our faces by the time we get to the car, but plants are tougher than they look.

  • But wind can be a problem for our broad-leaf evergreens especially on a sunny day. Keep your plants protected from potential high-wind areas to avoid winter-kill or winter-burn of the leaves.

  • Leave the snow where it is. The snow cover insulates the plant from the cold.

  • Don’t prune your big-leaf hydrangeas right now. They may look dead, and very well may be, but if you touch them now there’s no chance the flower buds make it through the winter. Have faith in your plants.

  • Raised beds will provide the soil a better chance to warm faster.

And here are tips for the heat:

  • Provide your plants the moisture they need by mulching. This will retain that precious water. And spread it out; the more you plant, the more competition for water.

  • Shade. Pay attention to how much sun your plants really need and plant accordingly.

  • Water in the mornings, and evenly. Use a soaker hose to prevent water loss from evaporation and disease to your plants. Plus you’ll save on the water bill.

  • Be gentle. Just as you conserve energy by lazing at the side of your pool, gardens need the same treatment. Encourage flowers to continue blooming by deadheading faded and browning flowers around once a week, but leave it at that.

  • Have patience. Don’t jump for the fertilizer; your plants will be conserving energy during this heat. Give them the time they need.

Hardy “Proven Winners” favorites for the cold:

Here are some “Proven Winners” favorites for the heat:

As you gaze at your garden with longing for a better harvest or display, turn that frown upside down and know that with the right planning, your garden can and WILL prevail.

Bio: Abby Fullen is a Senior at Hilliard Davidson High School. She tends a square-foot vegetable garden with her mother. This piece was written to serve in conjunction with her Career Mentorship class at the Dale McVey Innovative Learning Center.

One response to “Plants for Extremes

  1. July Hays

    This is an excellent viewpoint on practical gardening! It is specific enough to be actually helpful while still general enough (“have faith in your plants”) to create a context that will sustain the gardener’s work. I really enjoyed it!

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