Although summer is the time to relax and enjoy the warm weather, it also presents unique conditions in the landscape that need to be attended to. The following summertime maintenance activities can help you avoid major gardening headaches and find the time to sit back and enjoy your view.
Summer is still a season of growth as well as a not and dry time for plants. That is why it’s important to protect plants from weather conditions and pests and tend to their beauty and health with a few simple activities.
The biggest commitment you’ll make to your landscape this summer will be caring for your lawn. I recommend setting the mowing height up to three inches, this allows the grass blades to shade and cool the root zone and keeps moisture from evaporating as quickly. Also make sure that the mowing blade is sharp by filing it after every 6-8 mowings. If it’s not, it will chew the top of the grass and leave your lawn looking brown and dried out because of the frayed and shredded tops.
The best preventive measure you can take during the summer to preserve the plants in your landscape is to water them adequately and in a timely manner. This means watering slowly, thoroughly, deeply, and only when needed. If you’re not sure whether or not to water, use dowel rods to test the soil in various parts of your property. Stick the rods 8-10 inches into the soil. The discoloration of the unsealed wood grain and the debris that clings (or doesn’t cling) to the rods should indicate whether or not it’s time to water.
To make the most of your watering efforts, double check mulch depth. A total depth of about two inches will insulate root systems against rapid drying and extreme heat.
Summer time can also mean trouble with diseases and insects. The key to managing pests is to deal in prevention. This makes regular plant inspection a must. Plants don’t have to be perfect, but when pests affect more than 20 percent of the plant, respond by using a method of control that is targeted to the specific problems and plants.
This is better for the environment and better for the landscape. If you’re not sure what approach to take, the professionals at your garden center can point you in the right direction. Take in a good sample of the problem so they don’t have to guess. Be particularly watchful for spider mites, scale and especially bagworms (which have been on the increase the last 2 or so years).
Pruning is another task that promotes the health and appearance of your plants. By taking out the dead, diseased, closely spaced or crossed branches, you can improve the trees’ or shrubs’ structure and provide less of an opportunity for disease to take hold. Pruning is also the way to manage shapes and sizes. You can prune non-flowering trees and shrubs whenever it is convenient. Flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned within 30 -45 days after blooming. Pruning later will not hurt the plant, but could upset the flowering cycle. To insure that your annuals bloom throughout the summer and into the fall until the first frost, pinch off dead flower heads (including the seed pods) so that the plant doesn’t send the internal chemical message that its mission has been completed. Be sure to take off not only the flower, but the entire fruiting structure. This will also help cause the plant to become bushier and yield more blooms. For convenience sake, it is perfectly all right to simply take off one-third the height of all your annuals at this point during the season.
Summer is the time to enjoy the landscape, but don’t let big problems sneak up on you. These easy maintenance activities can keep your landscape looking great and give you the time you need to stop and smell the roses. (Literally).
Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
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