A Note From Rick | Managing the Garden During a Dry Spell

June 10, 2021

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

There’s nothing more important to ensure success in the garden than watering. Watering long and deeply 2-3 times per week, rather than a quick, daily sprinkle, is very important. This rule of thumb applies to lawns, too. If you have new plantings, it’s especially important to water them regularly if it doesn’t rain or not raining enough. I try to water newly seeded rows in the vegetable and community gardens on a daily basis until germination. Those gardens are watered 2-3 times per week, with all sections getting 2 hours under an oscillating sprinkler. New plants, trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals are watered twice or three times per week until established and also during dry spells during their first season.

Sometimes, I’ll water plants that were planted the previous year if it’s especially dry. Some trees and shrubs don’t get fully established until 2-3 years after planting. Oak trees and most trees moved as large specimens may need 5 years of supplemental watering. Here at Bridge Gardens, we’ve just started watering the lawns, but since it rained so much recently, we’ll turn the system off until it’s dry again. It’s a little extra work to monitor watering the lawns, but it saves a lot of water.

RB Irrigation has been assisting us with our irrigation needs for quite a few years now, and their expertise is invaluable to ensuring the success of new plantings as well as those that are established throughout the garden. You’ll find some tips on managing your watering needs provided by RB, owner of RB Irrigation, in the blog post, Weathering the Dry Spells.

New plants that are now watered more frequently include blackcap raspberries, blackberries, bear oak, black cherry, sassafras, American persimmon, and American hazelnut, all natives, as well as many new annuals in the herb garden like coriander, dill, Mexican tarragon, and epazote.


Watering newly planted herbs in the culinary bed

Just about everything is happening in the vegetable garden. All the major crops have been planted, and harvesting for the food pantry has begun. It’s time to start thinking ahead and make second sowings of crops like beets and carrots. It’s also time to sow plugs of summer lettuce, varieties like Muir, which can withstand hot summer temperatures without turning bitter and going to seed. Many of the lettuces we enjoy in spring will not survive summer’s heat and can’t be grown again until late summer and fall.


Many of our vegetables are ready for harvest for the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.

Another new planting this year is asparagus! After a shaky start, our two new asparagus beds are looking good. Back in February, the box of crowns arrived without notice, but luckily we had already dug the 12-inch wide and 12-inch deep trench and were ready to plant, even though it was cold and snowy. We laid the crowns on 6-inch mounds of compost and then filled in the trench, covering the crowns with an inch of soil. Some of the crowns looked dead, but we planted anyway. It took over a month for the first spears to appear, but they finally did and have grown a couple feet. Gradually during the summer, we’ll fill in the trench with a mix of compost and soil and look forward to harvesting our first crop in a year or two.

We chose to plant a new strain of asparagus, developed by Rutgers University, known as the Jersey series. These asparagus are all-male, so no energy goes into fruit production, and start producing spears after only a couple years, instead of the usual 3 or more years. In the future, we plan to plant more asparagus around the two sides of the community gardens.


Newly planted asparagus have emerged

Now is a good time to fertilize. We keep crops fertilized with top dressings of granular organic fertilizer, especially effective applied just before a good rain or deep watering, and bi-weekly applications of fish fertilizer.

Are you thinking of growing tomatoes this year? Many people rush to plant them, along with peppers and eggplant, by Memorial Day. Considering our long growing season, that really isn’t necessary. This is especially true considering how cold our spring has been and how all those favorites prefer night time temperatures above 50 degrees to thrive and produce. Many people like to grow heirloom varieties, but I rarely plant them here at Bridge Gardens because they are generally disease-prone and consequently have low yields. I prefer non-GMO modern varieties with built-in disease resistance and strong productivity. Growers have been selecting plants for disease resistance and resulting higher yields since the beginnings of agriculture. Remember Gregor Mendel who selected pea varieties in his 17th century monastery and began a revolution of increased food production for all humans? That work continues today. Results need to be examined critically so as not to be detrimental, but it should not be dismissed.

Not withstanding, someone recently gave me a couple of heirlooms and I will plant them and see what happens. That’s a big part of the joy of gardening - experimentation!


Golden yellow rose has salmon-tinged petals

June is for Roses. Roses are really at their best during the month of June. Here at Bridge Gardens, we have about 100 hybrid, tea, and grandiflora roses planted in our rose roundel which is located in the outer garden. This full-sun location is perfect for the rose garden, offering dry heat and breezy conditions that help us keep black spot to a minimum. We fertilize once per month until August, and spray once per week with organic sprays like horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and Serenade. These help control aphids and black spot. The rose garden is watered deeply only once per week. With June comes weekly deadheading and cleanup around the roses to remove debris and keep them healthy and happy. This important task is managed by dedicated volunteers who help us ensure they look their best when you visit.

On June 29, Paul Wagner of Greener Pastures Organics will lead an organic rose care workshop at 3:00 p.m. Join us to learn how you can manage your roses using organic treatments like those we use here at Bridge Gardens.


This pink rose is one of the first to show in June

I hope you’ll stop by to explore all the plantings — new and existing — throughout the Gardens. And be sure to join us for our upcoming programs, now offering several in-person! Check out our calendar below. I look forward to seeing you soon.

~~ Rick

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