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Planning a Waterwise Perennial Garden

Planning a Waterwise Perennial Garden

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Planning A Water Conserving Perennial Garden

Hopefully you have caught on to water conservation. If you have the summer bills have not left you with sticker shock and the plants are enjoying not being overwatered. With the summer heat starting to wane, it is a good time to look at water thrifty perennial plants so you can include them in your garden.

Herbaceous perennials are becoming more and more popular. New varieties, greater availability of plants from local nurseries and more desire to include something a little different in the garden all lay a part in the resurgence of perennial gardens, include some for your own garden and make it water thrifty at the same time.

Water conserving perennial gardens are more than just choosing certain plants. Those that are successful for the long term include proper attention to soil preparation, mulches and weed control.

Perennial gardens are real treasures if they are done correctly but they are not without peril. In my opinion, the greatest risk comes from weeds. Weeds use as much or more water than the plants themselves. Garden plants can never thrive if the weeds are stealing the water. Perennial weds in perennial flowers are certain disasters. The worst offenders are those outlaws with their pictures on the Post Office Wall so to speak. Once planted the perennials are there to stay and taking out the problem weeds is next to impossible.

These noxious weeds include field bindweed, whitetop, quackgrass, Bermudagrass and several others. All have deep spreading taproots that are likely to go deeper and spread more aggressively than your chosen garden perennials. If you have these weeds in the area you want to plant, get them under control before you plant. This process will usually take several seasons.

Never skimp on soil preparation. Perennial enthusiasts recommend double digging the beds where you dig the beds deeply and turn the soil over while adding insubstantial amounts of organic matter. Soil preparation is essential. With perennials it must be done before the plants are put in the ground because unlike annuals beds you cannot till and add organic matter every year.

Mulches are also important assets in water thrifty gardens. Organic mulches improve the soil as they decompose, they help control the water robbing weeds and they cool the soil and reduce the evaporation. Be generous with the mulches as you grow your perennials and the flowers will reward you well.

After thoughtful preparations, spend some time selecting the plants. The challenge with perennial flowers is to select those that need the same conditions. Many gardeners start out to design a waterwise planting. The plant the plants and are not willing to let them establish well. They then start to mix in some thirsty annuals or perennials and then water for those thirsty plants. That, in effect negates any of the benefits of designing the garden for saving water.

Passion for Perennials with Larry Sagers and Gretchen Campbell. If you love perennial gardens or the cottage garden look, then you will love this class. We will go in depth into perennial plants, how to select them according to water requirements, shade or sun tolerance and care. Tuesdays, June 3, 10, 17, 24, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Join us in the Oak Room on the lower level of the Thanksgiving Gardens Visitors Center Fee: $40.00

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