Thursday, August 19, 2010

August Gardening Chores

It may be hard to think of gardening in this heat and humidity, especially when looking across dried lawns and crispy perennials. But as the cooler weather promises to roll in here are some things to keep your garden growing through August.

Weeding is a perennial chore (pun intended) and this year is no exception, so keep at it. Although in some situations it may seem as though weeds are “Shading your perennials or veggies,” remember they are stealing the water and nutrients from them as well, so weed, weed, weed.

Deadhead perennials and Annuals to encourage re-blooming. By pinching off the forming seed heads and seed pods you trick the plant into thinking it has not done its job yet (reproduction) and the plant will channel its energy into putting out more blooms.

Bleeding heart (Dicentra) and Oriental poppies (Papaver) – now is a good time to dig up and divide these plant roots while they are dormant. Cut the root into sections about 2” long, and then plant each section as if it were a new plant, or pot some up to give to friends.

If your lawn is crunchy don’t despair it may just be dormant and with the cooler fall temps (and a little rain) you should see it rebound. Keep on top of the crabgrass, it may look nice and green right now, but if you let it go to seed – you will regret it. Remember the old adage “One year of weed equals seven of seed” Reminding us that those weed seeds can remain viable for years to come.

And if patches of your lawn do not rebound, September is a wonderful time to reseed.

Q. My shrubs all look dead or wilted! Do I dig them up and throw them out? Anonymous, Dedham

A. This is a great question, but hard to answer as it will vary from one plant to the next. In general, newer plantings are much more susceptible to death from this heat and low rainfall because they have fewer and shallower roots to support them. That said, healthy plants growing in areas closest to their “Cultural criteria” (soil type, amount of sunlight, level of acidity, etc.) are more likely to pull though. For instance, if you planted a Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), which wants moist, rich humosy soil into your rock garden, which has dry, sandy, infertile soil, the plant may not bounce back. If instead you planted a Potentilla fruiticosa, which thrives in that rock garden environment: dry, sandy, infertile soil, that shrub may bounce back quite vigorously.