As if a prolonged hot, dry spell isn't enough, now trees and shrubs are combating toxins in the air from forest fire smoke and ash. While waiting for the monsoon rains to come, exploring the use of some plant protecting treatments that are on the market may help valuable plants survive. These products, which are called anti-transpirants are not widely known, and may be what is needed in a drought-prone climate to help plants survive.
One such product, Wilt-Pruf, has been around for about 50 years, and is reputed to protect plants from winter kill, windburn, drought and transplant shock. Wilt-Pruf is a light, waxy, pine-oil base non-harmful solution which prevents moisture loss through transpiration, without interfering with plant growth or materially affecting respiration, osmosis, or photosynthesis. Recommended for use on all evergreen plants, broadleaf and conifers alike, a plant can be treated monthly as needed. Wilt-Pruf also is recommended for use to minimize transplant shock and winter kill from dry freezing temperatures. Although not available locally, several mail-order sources can be located on the website: www.wiltpruf.com.
A product being used locally is Vita-Planta 2000. This product is a castor-oil sulfonate that helps trees retain moisture, so they are better able to fight off beetle attacks. It is an organic substance, and totally non-toxic. Applied as a foliar spray, it also wets the ground around the base of the tree. Vita-Planta is able to help drying leaves and needles rebuild chlorophyll with regular applications. Available from Rim Country Applicators who are equipped to spray the professional strength formula, Vita Planta also can be purchased for home use by calling (928) 474-2142. For additional information log on to www.vitaproducts.com.
Plant Fair Nursery sells a product called Cloud Cover. This is also a non-toxic, biodegradable emulsion, made from acrylic coal tar. When applied to a plant, it lays down a clear film polymer coating on plant surfaces. Conrad Martin, assistant manager at Plant Fair stressed the importance of putting an anti-transpirant product into the regular garden maintenance program. A plant will withstand drought and drying wind much more effectively if treatment begins before damage occurs.
All of the products previously mentioned can be sprayed directly on plants and flowers using a hand spray bottle, spray tank, or hose applicator. Each product has dilution rates on the container, and it is important to follow directions carefully. Because these products are non-toxic, they will not harm birds, pets or other small animals, but caution should be taken not to spray automobiles, painted surfaces, etc.
Garden chores and activities this month include:
Planting: Take a look at all the drought-tolerant trees and shrubs making their way into our nurseries. Be sure to read the tags to know if a plant requires full sun or partial shade, and what its cold and heat tolerance zones are. Plant drought-tolerant, hardy perennials that will last for years to replace annuals that are tired and limp from the heat. Spray an anti-transpirant on the plant before moving from tub to hole, to help plant withstand transfer. Divide clumps of irises by digging rhizomes, cutting into 4-inch pieces, cutting fans to about 6 inches and allowing to dry in a shady spot for about six weeks. Replant in late August.
Protect: Spray insecticidal soap on plants affected by aphids, and check junipers regularly for spider mites. These nearly microscopic insects form little webs among the needles and suck juices out of the stems. A hosing with a stiff spray of water will wash them away.
Mulch: Any organic material will do. Mulching allows water to be absorbed into the soil from above as it rains and prevents rapid runoff, but slows down evaporation when our weather is hot and dry. Gardens heavily mulched with chipped wood may need a little nitrogen to replace that lost by the decomposition process of the mulch. Any 10-10-10 granular fertilizer will do. Sprinkle over the mulch and water in well. Using blood meal as a fertilizer will also discourage cats and wild critters from approaching the flower bed. Use a dust mask and gloves when applying blood or bone meal, and water in well.