Saturday, November 15, 2008

July in the Garden

Proper watering! With all the threatening storm systems, which have not come through (what a tease!), we have had so little rain. So, it is very important to water properly. Long, soaking watering sessions a few times a week is best. These deep soakings are best for most plants and plantings other than germinating seeds. Use soaker hoses or other ground level sprinklers to quickly get the water where the plants need it – to the roots. Established lawns, trees and shrubs and many perennials typically need only 1” to 2” of water or rainfall, even in July. Running your lawn sprinklers at mid-day, in full sun on a hot day, is not efficient watering. Most of the water will evaporate before it reaches the roots of your thirsty plants. This can also scorch the leaves of many garden plants, similar to applying baby oil to your skin and running around in full sun.

Mulching. Remember DO NOT mound mulch around the trunks of tree or shrubs! If you haven’t mulched your garden yet this year, you can still do so to good effect. Proper mulching (about 2” to 3” deep) can help reduce water evaporation at the root level where plants need it the most, it helps keep down weed (which compete with your plants for sun, water and other nutrients; and it keeps the soil temperature up to 25’ cooler which promotes better root development. Mulch SHOULD NOT touch the bark or trunks of trees and shrubs.

Also if you are heading off on vacation this month, mow and water your lawn before you leave. When mowing your lawn follow the 1/3 rule. Cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade in a single mowing. This reduces the stress to the remaining blade and ensures the clippings are small enough to be left in place for ‘mulching’ as they quickly decompose. The best schedule I have found is to water your lawn in the early morning and then mow in the early evening. This way cut blades are not exposed to the drying heat of the day.

Other garden chores for July: Prune sucker growths on tomato plants, for the best fruit production. Suckers are additional shoots, which form where a leaf connects to the main stem. And to avoid blossom rot or cracking of the tomato skin, keep the soil around your tomato plants evenly moist. Mulching can help.

When harvesting blueberries, remember to leave them on the bush for several days after they have turned blue for the sweetest flavor. Netting your bushes will help prevent the birds from eating your berries before you do.

Deadheading (removing spent blooms) of many annuals and perennials will encourage repeat blooms. Also an aggressive prune of many perennials such as Nepeta and Salvia now, will promote new growth and flowers for late summer.

And towards the end of this month, stop watering any Amaryllis you are trying to hold over from last winter (even if it has green leaves), and move them to a cool, dark spot (unfinished basement is what I use). Leave the bulbs in their pots untended until October. A colleague of mine recommended turn the pots on their side so you don’t accidentally water them.

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