MASON CITY | Being a weather-resistant — or all-weather — gardener is a skill worth cultivating in North Iowa, attendees at a gardening workshop were told Sunday at the Home and Landscaping Show.
“It’s what to do when Mother Nature doesn’t play well with others,” said John Sjolinder, a gardener and executive director of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Cerro Gordo County.
To help plants survive in cases of extreme wet weather or drought, both of which occurred during the 2013 growing season, Sjolinder suggested it’s always wise to diversify.
“And just get used to the idea that some of your plants aren’t going to make it,” he said.
The weather is what it is.
“But we as gardeners can take a much more active approach to planting,” Sjolinder said. “We can be smarter about our plants and what they need and how and where to plant them.”
Choosing plants native to the Upper Midwest is always wise.
Beyond that, talking with successful gardeners is always helpful, especially if their land is similar to yours.
” ‘Steal’ plants from your neighbors,” Sjolinder said. “Get tips from people that have been successful.”
Sjolinder also recommended being realistic about plant hardiness.
Although the growing zones are shifting north, borderline plants for our area do not tend to do well, he said.
Plants hardy to Zone 4 will be most reliable.
Container gardens offer flexibility by being easy to move from one location to another.
In a discussion that included much science background relating to what plants need to survive, Sjolinder explained how some plants do better than others in extreme dry or wet conditions.
Plants that do well in sun, for example, tend to have small, thick leaves. They don’t lose moisture during the day, Sjolinder said.
If a plant does not survive, remember that trial and error is a part of the learning process.
“Killing plants is not a bad thing,” Sjolinder said. “It’s a way to find out what works and what doesn’t.”
There can be enough success to plant again next year.
Bob and Sally Becker of Mason City were among the gardeners who attended the session to pick up a few pointers.
Last year, they had some ornamental plants that wilted in the drought and didn’t come back, said Sally.
“I think we really have a better idea of what to do this year so we don’t have the same problems,” she said afterward.