Gardening August 2011

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Tips on keeping your landscape lush in August

Summer’s heat and humidity can take a toll on your lawn, your vegetable garden and your flowering ornamentals. Hopefully we won’t have drought conditions as we have had in the past, but it is best to be prepared. There are some things you can do to keep your lawn and landscape alive and surviving August.

Avoid excessive watering. But, if you need to water, make sure to water deeply and only in the early morning hours. For shrubs and trees that have been in the ground for two years or more, let nature’s rainfall do the work.

 But, for trees and shrubs that have been in the ground for less than two years, and for any trees or shrubs that have been recently transplanted, be sure to give them water during the hot summer months. I water trees and shrubs by placing the hose nozzle at the base of the plant, set the volume at a trickle and let it go for 30 minutes per plant. This technique lets the soil around the plant absorb the water slowly and there is very little, if any, run off. This saves water and helps the plant. 

Also, I make sure that all of my trees and shrubs have a two-inch-thick layer of organic mulch at their base. The mulch keeps the roots cool, which helps keep the plant cool and helps absorb and retain any water received from me or rainfall.

The same applies to perennials, herbs, vegetables and fruits, which are usually planted together in a border or formal garden. Be sure to use mulch, compost, hay or straw spread on the soil around the plants.

For these gathered plants, I like to install a soaker hose which trickles water through its pores very slowly. These hoses are widely available and will help you conserve water while watering your plants at the same time.

Once the hose is installed, I hook it up to the outdoor spigot with a regular hose and then turn it on overnight, no more often than once a week. Long, slow deep watering creates a deeper and more complete root system. Frequent shallow watering creates lazy roots that sit on the soil surface and quickly run out of moisture. 
  When it comes to grass, let it go dormant. Although it will turn brown, grass will green up nicely with cooler weather in the fall.

Cut grass high and do not collect grass clippings. You may not be cutting your lawn as much in summer, but when you do, make sure the blade is sharp and you cut the grass no shorter than three inches. Taller blades of grass provide shade for the soil and roots. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn because they are a good source of water and they deliver valuable nutrients back into the soil. 

Choose the right variety of grass. It is important to grow the right grass for our area. Kentucky blue grass is attractive, but it is the grass that likes the most water. Your lawn should be mostly perennial ryegrass if it is a sunny lawn and fescue if it is a shady lawn. It is okay to have Kentucky blue grass in your lawn, just don’t make it the dominant type growing there.

Do not over fertilize. Generally, fertilizing in the summer is not a good idea. That should have been done in the spring during cooler weather. Limit fertilizing to the fall months, when fewer rainstorms wash off fertilizer. Remember, compost or grass clippings make a good, organic fertilizer.

Prune correctly. Some shrubs will need summer pruning, after they complete their flowering. Pruning keeps them in good health and ready for the next season. Remember, prune after bloom is a good rule of thumb.

Don’t forget to water your container plants, too. I place saucers under most of my containers which holds onto water that will eventually be used by the plants inside. To help make your container plantings more water wise, I like to mix in compost or even peat to the potting soil to keep it light and airy, not dense and compacted. A lighter soil will retain more water and help the plants grow a better root system.

Remember, enjoy your garden!

Larry Sombke is a garden designer, blogger for the Times Union and author of ‘Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens” and “Beautiful Easy Herbs.” Contact him with questions and comments at lsombke@beautifuleasygardens.com
 

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