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Over the Garden Fence

Settling into a summer rhythm

By mid-June, the spring gardens have either slowed or have finished providing us with all those great colorful flowers, from daffodils to peonies to iris. The same goes for many of our flowering shrubs and trees. Our lawns, with all the rain, are for the most part actively growing and green, but there are some lawns that are beginning to show signs of slowing down for summer.

Soon, we’ll be settling into a new lawn care rhythm, as mowing will become a weekly chore and not every third or fourth day. Flower beds evolve from vigorous growth and bloom, and settle down to foliage making energy for next year. Flowering trees and shrubs also will be producing next year’s energy, yet trees and shrubs send their energy in a couple of directions. Reserves are moved into the root system to be stored and to allow for seasonal root system expansion. Being woody, compared to herbaceous perennials, food generated by the foliage also is directed into stems and branches to create next season’s flowers and foliage. Not to leave the lawn out of this process, that grass does most of the future storage later this fall when the weather cools and rains come back.

What other kinds of rhythms begin to happen depends on what is growing in the home landscape. One of those may be the vegetable garden. Early cool season crops are about over – lettuce, radish, kale, cabbage – so the rhythm shifts to the successive plantings of our summer garden. Eventually, you’ll have a continuing harvest rhythm of our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, snap beans and those vegetables you have tried for the first time, like maybe colorful Swiss chard. Regular watering may be done to provide consistent harvest, but it also promotes a potential supply of newly emerging weeds, so another routine will be light tillage or weeding.

For the perennial bed, a weekly walk and inspection can reveal seed head formation if timely deadheading was not completed. The energy going into the seed head will be better utilized by creating the flower initials in the crowns and tubers of our perennials for next year. That same weekly inspection may show us the need to be doing a bit of weed control there as well. While we believe the perennial bed to be weed-free, there is always some annual grasses (foxtails come to mind) sneaking up through the daylily or iris foliage. Dandelion seed will float through the air and end up at the base of our perennials as well. Get them now while they are just a seedling, and they will not become that long term problem that cannot be removed later in the center of our perennial plants.

I know there are many more “summer rhythms” going on as our landscapes are remarkably diverse, I just touched on some of the more common aspects. If you are having trouble finding the right rhythm for working in your yard, try your ear buds and what every kind of music you are into. Music and gardening are both very satisfying and go together well.

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.