Gardening: Dealing with garden walk weather worries

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

By the time you’re sitting with your morning coffee reading this column, I’ll be breathing great sighs of relief — the garden walk will be over.

Nancy Szerlag at the Stone House Garden on Thursday,  the morning of the walk.

I’m not too worried about weeds. My volunteers have done a great job rooting them out. However, there are a couple of questionable characters that have attractive foliage and have not been identified, so we left them in place. If asked we call them fillers. During the years I’ve visited hundreds of public and private gardens and nary a weed stands out in my memory.

It’s the weather that has me flummoxed. I use mostly flowering annuals in the Stone House Garden because visitors love color. I choose plants that are weather resilient so by summer they can pretty much take the temperatures in their stride looks wise, as long as they are watered. But 90-degree weather in spring when the plants are still young and tender takes its toll, and this year Mother Nature has laid it on us.

 We got a slow start in the garden because of the unseasonable cold weather and then got whacked with a weeklong heat wave. When the temperatures reach into the high 80s and 90s, plants go into emergency mode and shut down in order to conserve moisture — leaves curl and flowers wilt. But with perfect weather — lots of sun and temps in the 60s at night and 70s during the day, they can make up for lost time in a matter of days. That’s what we were hoping for the week prior to the garden walk — that was Father’s Day weekend, when another 90 plus degree heat wave hit.

I watered the garden early Sunday before it heated up. On Monday I followed up in the afternoon with my hose-end Radius Garden Dragonfly Watering Wand ( using the fine mist-like setting to cool down the plants without damaging the flowers.

The knee-jerk reaction for many gardeners is to fertilize plants that wilt from the heat, but that can do far more harm than good. Plants wilt in high heat because they loose water in their leaves faster than they can take it up through the roots. So it’s best to allow the plants time to recover after the heat wave passes before using any fertilizers. 

Moving containers into shaded areas or providing a protective covering is wise. But for large gardens such as the OPC Stone House Garden, watering, misting and hoping for the best in a heat wave is all I can do.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at