A GROWING CONCERN: Pinching back and watering mid-summer

WHAT DO YOU know, we’re into August already.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of folks getting all tensed up that summer is close to being over.

That is pretty bizarre because summer is only a few hours into its second half!

And what gorgeous summer days we’ve been having, watering the hanging baskets twice a day and applying liquid fertilizers once a week.

I was just commenting on August as the month in which “every inch is to be reveled in. It’s when life should be lived each moment, not just on the weekends.”

In the garden, we horticulturalists (domesticus landscaperis) know that every moment our yards need to be worked — every inch to be weeded or deadheaded, pruned, raked, admired and cherished.

It may be my tundra upbringing (Green Bay, Wisc.), but I have to tell you that it is never hot, nor is it ever cold here.

You see, the heat is relative to what you are accustomed.

The lack of humidity on the Peninsula, subzero (actually sub-20s) winter temperatures, mosquitoes, tornados or killer storms make this place ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.

The beauty is unmatched anywhere, and community spirit is as high as I have ever seen anyplace else.

For the next several weeks I will concentrate on what I like to call “sound cultural practices.”

And since I want to shake you up a little, let’s list some very radical notions I would like everyone to come away with:

• During the summer, a brown lawn is not only advantageous, it is normal. You do not have to water it.

• Insects, even aphids or whiteflies, are a “good thing” in the garden. I even found a quick running lizard in one client’s yard this week.

• One must indeed cut and prune away flowers and buds in order to promote a more prolific plant. You must spend flowers to make flowers.

• The chemicals one uses to kill the weeds are far more destructive than the weeds.

• Watering properly is way more beneficial than daily sprinkles. Watering is an art form.

• The pruner is mightier than the sprayer (or the shovel).

• The best way to compost the grass clippings is to leave them on the lawn.

• The best plant may not be the prettiest one, but the one ideally suited to its location (we can apply this to mates, too).

• Switching to organic gardening guarantees the worst results in the short term.

• There is nothing wrong with native plants — the natural salal, ferns, huckleberry, flowering currant, madrona and western red cedars are gorgeous to everyone east of the Cascades.

• There is no shame in hiring out all or some gardening jobs.

• Rocks never die and do not need to be pruned, fertilized, or watered.

With these points taken, cut back your lovely, gorgeous, beautiful flowers (my articles are online through the Peninsula Daily News, to see which kinds react positively to this process).

Cutting back flowers is a great way to begin the re-adjustment as we head into the second half of summer.

You must pinch back your flowers, baskets, pots and window boxes, and pinch them back hard.

By pinching back, I mean remove not only the flowers but also at least one leaf set, and preferably several leaf sets.

In the case of fuchias, that’s each and every tip — which is half the blooms.

If this pinching is not done quickly (and for some it may already be too late), by Labor Day these untended beauties will have turned to mostly trash.

Then again, for many of you caught in the habitual rhythms of humans, that is when summer is over.

So now I will go out and check the edges of my beds for even watering, smell the lovely fragrance of the full-on bloom of the oriental lilies wafting down the neighborhood, whilst I snip and prune tips of flowers for my Labor Day rush of blossoms, with a cold drink tucked in the shade nearby.

Any reason is a good one for being in the garden during our gorgeous mid-summer weather.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula DailyNews, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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