Gardening in the warm fall weather

When I first moved to the maritime Northwest, I found the cool, grey summers a little depressing. As I discovered how well gardens responded to the understated weather, I quickly became a convert. Not only did garden plants thrive, but every color combination I assembled was enhanced by the subtle, silvery skies. OK, the tomatoes didn’t always do so well, but greens grew just fine, and I could get anything else at the farmer’s market.

After the weather we’ve had over the past decade (or more), those silvery summers seem like a long-ago dream of a greener, moister time. 

Garden plants weren’t the only ones that loved our once-gentle climate, where rain was plentiful even if warmth wasn’t. Native plants, from cedars and firs to sword ferns and salal, also throve, supporting and nurturing an enormous circle of living critters. Since many native plants had developed a tolerance for dry if cool summers, I never thought I’d suggest that native plants could use supplemental water as I’ve done in recent summers. However, long periods of unaccustomed heat and drought left native plants more susceptible to diseases, from powdery mildew on bigleaf maples to die off of young red cedars, whose shallow root systems make them especially vulnerable. Unimaginable as it once seemed, summer watering may indeed help save our iconic evergreen trees. 

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