To plant, or not to plant, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the garden to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous August heat, or to take shovels and spades against a sea of troubles, and by opposing the heat plant anyway?
OK, no more rewriting Shakespeare. But the question remains, should I plant when it is hot?
July and August are certainly the hot months in our Valley. They are also the months when plants and trees begin to go on sale at local nurseries and box stores try to clear out their inventory.
If you get a great bargain but can't keep it alive, what's the point?
Here is my take on planting trees, shrubs, and perennials at this time of the year. After 12 years of landscaping and owning a nursery I say ... drum roll ... yes, you can plant.
Is it the best time to plant? No, compared to spring and fall.
Fall is best because it gives plants time to settle before winter and start growing undisturbed in spring.
Fall planting begins around mid-September. It is still hot, but days are short and nights are cool. Fall planting should be concluded by mid-October if possible.
Spring planting is the next best time, often beginning in mid-March and concluding near the end of June.
But back to planting in the summer -- there will soon be bargains and you don't want to wait until fall to buy.
It is my opinion that a well-watered plant in the ground can survive the "dog days" better than one in a plastic nursery pot.
There area a few caveats, however.
When planting in hot months, plan your planting when temperatures for the following few days will be in the 80s or low 90s.
Next, plant in the early morning. Water your plant well before planting, and fill the hole in which you plan to place it with water, letting it soak in before setting in your plant.
Do not stress the plant by disturbing its roots, and do no major trimming at this time of the season.
Most importantly, ensure the new plantings receive plenty of water. This means deep watering that will get below the roots. The main reason for plant loss this time of year is poor watering.
If your new plants will be covered by a sprinkler system, you are OK as long as the system runs long enough to give the plants a deep watering.
Hand-waterers beware! Watering by hand may be entertaining, but it is the least efficient and most likely cause of plant loss. Most sprinkler system run for 10 to 20 minutes. I have yet to meet the hand-waterer who will stand at each plant for that long.
If you do not have a sprinkler system, limit plantings to what can be watered four or more times a week by placing a slow drip hose on each small plant for 10 to 20 minutes, each shrub for 20 to 30 minutes, and trees for about an hour.
As a final thought in the mold of "Hamlet," do not let your summer plantings " ... die. To sleep, no more; and by a sleep to say we end ... ."
Bryce Rugraff owns The Plant Company and Plant Company Landscaping in Walla Walla.