After some up and down temperatures earlier this year, it seems summer has settled in for good. While a lot of the work we do in the garden happens in the spring, that doesn’t mean we can coast through the summer. Here are some things we can be doing in our landscapes to help keep them going through the summer.
As the temperatures heat up and the spigot in the sky turns off, providing supplemental water to our plants is often necessary. There are a variety of ways you can go about watering your plants. From just the hose with a nozzle, over-head sprinklers, or drip irrigation, each has its advantages and disadvantages. However you decide to water your plants, in general, most will need 1-2 inches of water a week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Just remember infrequent deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your raised beds and container gardens. Raised beds and containers dry out much quicker than plants in the ground. Therefore, these will likely need to be watered more frequently. It’s not uncommon to have to water potted plants daily during particularly hot, dry stretches of weather.
Don’t forget to water recently planted trees and shrubs. These plants will need to be watered until they are established in the landscape, which can take several years. While shrubs will typically establish themselves in one to two years and small trees in 2-3 years, larger trees can take much longer (over five years).
Most turf grown in the are cool-season species, meaning they’ll go dormant during the summer. Once temperatures begin to cool again in the fall, it will green back up. If you want to keep your grass green throughout the summer, you’ll need to irrigate. If you decide to irrigate, you need to do it consistently; sporadic watering can pull turf in and out of dormancy, causing stress that can impact its health.
As the plants in our landscapes take off with the arrival of warm weather, so do weeds. Make sure you stay on top of weeds and don’t allow them to go to seed. Mechanical (hand pulling, hoeing, etc.) is a good way to control small weeds or weeds in small areas.
If you have large areas of weeds, herbicides may be the best option for management. Herbicides can be selective, which only kill certain types of plants. For example, 2,4-D will work on broadleaf plants but not grasses. They can also be broad spectrum and will affect a wide variety of different plants, such as glyphosate. Identifying what types of weeds you have can be helpful when determining what herbicide to use. Timing can also be important with herbicide. The larger a plant gets, the more difficult it becomes to control it, even when using herbicides.
One concern with applying herbicides in warm weather is vapor drift. As temperatures get warmer, particularly over 85 degrees, some herbicides are more prone to vaporizing. When this happens, they can move away from the area they were applied and drift onto desirable plants. Make sure to read and follow all label directions.
Mulching your plants can also help keep weeds down not only in flower beds and around trees, but also in vegetable gardens. Try using organic mulches like wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves. Not only will they help keep weeds down, as they break down they will also add organic matter to the soil.
Just like with many of our weeds, pest populations can also explode as the temperatures continue to heat up. It is important to go out and scout your landscape at least once a week. This will help you keep track of what’s going on in your garden and help you stay on top of any pests that may be present.
Like with weeds, make sure you are properly identifying insects and diseases in your landscape. Some of them will warrant control, some you can live with, and others may not be pests at all!
When managing pests in your landscape, try to utilize IPM practices. Depending on the pest you’re dealing with, there may be management options other than spraying pesticides. Often using cultural (disease resistant cultivars, altering planting dates), physical (netting plants, handpicking pests), and biological (conserving natural enemies) management techniques can provide adequate control of pests without the use of pesticides.
Make sure to remove any standing/stagnant water every 5-7 days to prevent them from turning into mosquito breeding grounds. For example, if you have a birdbath in your yard, make sure to change water frequently to help prevent standing water. Also, make sure you empty drip trays under potted plants and empty wading/kiddie pools.
Many annual flowers don’t require much care other than the occasional watering. However, some will benefit from deadheading (removing old flowers). Doing this encourages the plants to produce more flowers and helps keep them from looking ragged. This can be done by pinching the old flowers off with your fingers or with pruning shears. Some annuals that may benefit from deadheading are geraniums, marigolds, salvia, and snapdragons.
Annuals can also be pinched back. Pinching removes the tips of the plants and encourages them to branch. This causes plants to be shorter and fuller. This increased branching can lead to more blooms on plants too. Pinching can be done at any time, but a good time to do it is when the plants begin to get leggy and flop.
Some perennial plants like mums and autumn joy sedum will also benefit from being pinched back. For example, mums can be pinched back (remove ½ to 1 inch) when they are about 6 inches tall (often around mid-June) and then again when the plant again reaches 6-8 inches tall (around mid-July, many people do it around July 4th). Like with annuals, this will cause plants to be more compact (and less prone to flopping open) and have more flowers.
If you haven’t done so already, harvest your cool-season crops like lettuce, broccoli, and spinach. As the temperatures get warmer, the quality of these plants will decline, and they will begin to bolt (flower).
Make sure you’re harvesting vegetables like cucumbers, sweet corn, and green beans at the proper time. Cucumbers can be picked at any stage, but make sure to pick them before they start to turn yellow. Green beans should be picked when they are fully elongated but before the seeds have gotten too large. Sweet corn should be harvested when it is in the milk stage (kernels will have a milky liquid when pierced). Also, keep up with harvesting your other vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers.
Come July and August, you can begin planting your fall garden. Many cool-season vegetables that we grow in the spring, like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and spinach, can be planted again in mid-to-late summer to extend our growing season. Many of these crops end up doing better because they are developing as the weather cools as opposed to in the spring, where they are developing as temperatures warm.
Finally, take some time to relax and enjoy your garden.
Good Growing Tip of the Week: In addition to keeping weeds down, mulch will help retain soil moisture, meaning you may not have to water as often.
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