A GROWING CONCERN: Summer fun, but some are garden chores

SO HERE WE go, finally warm/hot weather!

Theoretically, summer means dry, sunny, warm Peninsula weather. But what does that mean for your yard and garden? What, if anything, should you do?

Dry conditions challenge the gardener, but need not result in either major water use or a desiccated landscape.

The first order of business is to remove grass and weeds around your trees in a circle 1- to 3-feet wide, depending on the size of the tree.

Removing this surface sponge will be a positive for years to come in increased moisture and nutrient supply to the tree. This also protects the tree. Mowing under trees is a pain, especially since it is so easy to damage tree bark with a mower, weed-whacker line or edging tools. The damage may seem to be small, but it interferes with the movement of water and nutrients inside the tree, which can stunt and sometimes kill the tree.

Don’t forget to follow up by covering the cleared area with a protective mulch, 4- to 8-inches deep, to conserve water.

As for the actual watering, the key is to do it very slowly for a long period of time. That’s right, water for at least 24 hours or longer at a drip, drip, drip rate — less than half a gallon per minute — moving the hose around every few hours under the tree.

If you don’t have a soaker hose or drip irrigation system, you can take your sprinkler and run it for 20 minutes four or five times a day for a week under each tree. But don’t set a sprinkler to fling moisture into the hot noon air. More than 48 percent of water sprayed out this way evaporates without ever reaching a root.

Even better, deep root feed and water your trees (especially fruit trees) every other week. Deep root feeders are a device that connects to your hose with a long metal rod at the end. It’s pushed into the ground a couple of feet and injects nutrients and water down to the feeding roots, encouraging deeper penetration. You can do it, or you can hire a good arborist or nurseryman.

And don’t forget …

• How about your lilies? Lilies are one of the most striking summer perennial flowers in the garden. Like most bulb plants, they have a short-lasting flower. So here’s a job that doubles an individual bloom’s lasting power: de-anther them.

All flowers have to reproduce. This raison-d’etre in flowers comes in the form of pollination. Pollen produced on the anther works its way to the ovary of the flower that patiently waits for it. If everyday you walk to your lilies and gently pull those long anthers at the end of the filaments, your flowers will wait as long as possible for the never-to-arrive pollen.

Flowers are dumb and easily deceived — take full advantage of this trick to extend their viability.

• The higher the temperature, the higher the cut. Lift your mower to the top setting, usually 3¼ to 3¾ inches.

Keeping your grass slightly longer saves lots of water and makes your lawn more drought-proof. Taller grass shades the soil and keeps the wind off soil surface. Taller grass holds onto the morning dew and keeps soil cooler. Cutting high during the growing season allows more leaf area, and that allows the plant to soak up more sunlight and nourish the roots. In the fall and winter, you can go down to about an inch.

• Butcher and fertilize those hanging baskets. Now is the time to take them down, cut off bad flowers, pinch and prune long branches, cut away big bottom leaves and fertilize.

The daily waterings you have given those baskets have leached most of the nutrients through the soil. With all those pinches and the pruning, along with the best growing days of summer yet to come, these plants (all container types) need a fresh nutrient boost. This job will repay you in September with the best basket of flowers ever.

I have to get going now, I’ve got 23 baskets to butcher and fertilize.

But please, stay well all!


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

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