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Proctor's Garden: How to care for plants during the dog days of summer

Here are some tips for saving water and caring for your plants during the hottest time of the year.

DENVER, Colorado — The dog days of summer don't really have anything to do with our furry four-legged friends. It's all about astronomy, when the Dog Star Sirius rises in the night sky of the northern hemisphere. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Native Americans all ascribed meanings to this event. Over time the significance of the appearance of the brightest star has been lost. It's been largely replaced with the notion that the hot weather that coincides with the appearance of Sirius isn't fit for a dog.

Hot weather is tough on people, pets, and plants. Plants will often collapse in the midday heat. They're conserving energy. It doesn't necessarily mean they need water. They will often revive as it cools down. If they haven't revived by early evening though, water them. 

Use a moisture meter. It will tell you if your plants indeed need water. You can easily kill plants by overwatering. They can't survive in mud.

When you water, do it thoroughly. A little spritz is virtually worthless. For pots, lawns and borders, make sure to soak them well. Water infrequently but deeply. This encourages roots to delve deeply into the soil where it's cooler. Hanging baskets are especially vulnerable to drying out. Check them both morning and evening. Mornings and evenings are the best time to water because there's less evaporation.

Set your lawn mower on its highest setting. Longer grass shades the soil and keeps it cooler. Scalping your lawn like a putting green is an invitation for it to turn brown as toast. 

Periodically wetting down brick, concrete, or stone patios with short bursts during the heat of the day can help potted plants cope. It raises the humidity and cools the air temporarily. Water features also increase humidity and provide a bit of relief, even if it's just psychological. 

Use water efficiently and wisely to help get your garden through the dog days of summer. 

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A lily in Rob Proctor's Garden.

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