Good trees for urban gardens: The importance of mulch and water during hot weather

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A circle of bark around this maple tree protects it during hot weather.

With our beautiful weather, we sometimes forget that plants need attention in the summer. And although many people think it rains all the time in the Northwest, summers are dry.  Those occasional sprinkles are not enough.

Take particular care if your plants are three years old or younger.  The roots are still shallow and not established.

Most natives do all right after three years.  Plants such as the native rose, red twig dogwood, red currant are quite drought resistant.

Plants such as camellias, rhododendrons and Japanese maples are so well suited to our climate that they seem like natives. However these plants will benefit from summer water. If rhododendrons are allowed to dry out they will produce few or no flowers.

Mulching plants is a very good practice. Bark or wood chips with a little compost thrown in make water retentive cover for the plants such as rhododendrons and Japanese maples. Mulch should be 2 to 3 inches thick and spread in a circle around the plant. Just remember to keep the mulch away from the trunk of the trees to avoid rot.

Taking the time and trouble to do summer watering will have great benefits. You will be rewarded in the spring. You will have more flowers, healthy leaves and great-looking trees and shrubs.

— By Barbara Chase

Barbara Chase is a Master Gardener who serves on the City of Edmonds Citizens Tree Board.

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