Your garden deserves a drink during the dog days of August

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were traveling down U.S. 97 in Eastern Oregon on our way to Crater Lake. That area of Oregon is high desert, dry and desolate, unless you are lucky enough to have irrigation. For those land owners that are in an irrigation district, it is the difference between night and day. Farmers can grow onions, potatoes, alfalfa, seed crops and sugar beets, all because they can water the soil. Add a little fertilizer to the ground and you can grow some amazing crops.

Fast forward to our trip back home and another stark contrast came to my attention as I drove up Sunnyside Boulevard and into my driveway. Most of the boulevard is residential and many of the home owners let their yards go dormant in the summer. The lawns turn brown and the shrubs and trees can look stressed. It’s not a particularly uplifting sight. But when you get to my property suddenly you are transported into a luxurious paradise of foliage and flowers that is reminiscent of some tropical island. The only difference between my property and that of my neighbors is the amount of water I apply to my landscape (plus a little food, perhaps).

Water can work wonders in the garden and considering the benefits it brings us, it is truly a bargain. As you can imagine, being the fanatical gardener that I am, I use an inordinate amount of water in the summer to keep my garden looking good. Even with the high volume I consume, my bill is only around $75 a month. Now, I know people that spend that much a month at Starbucks for coffee that goes through their system in a matter of minutes with no long term benefits. My kids spend almost twice this much on their monthly cable bill and most of us spend at least $75 a month year-round on our cell phones. All of these expenditures bring us some degree of pleasure, otherwise we wouldn’t be spending the money on them, but for me the water bill is the best deal going.

Having a verdant, luxurious and productive garden has many benefits. Being surrounded by this beauty has a subconscious effect of calming us and reducing stress. This fact has been validated many times in studies where attractive landscapes in areas such as schools, parks and even prisons have been shown to reduce depreciative behavior (that’s a fancy way to say vandalism). The field of horticultural therapy has shown that working with plants can have a healing effect on our souls. Healthy and opulent landscapes can pump oxygen into the atmosphere and at the same time sequester carbon dioxide, all of which is a benefit to us.

As we move through the month of August, which is traditionally the hottest and driest month of our season, consider doing some watering. Your plants will appreciate it and whether you realize it or not, you might find yourself in a better frame of mind. And to think, all it took was a little water.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville;

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