We want our established plants to reach their roots far down into the soil and if we water a little, the roots will tend to stay nearer to the surface where they are likely to dry out. I have a Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum) that is around seven years old and bloomed amazingly well this year but was quite droopy during the heat spell. Fortunately, the unexpected shower helped.
On the other hand, we need to be watering very well new shrubs and trees planted this season (or even last fall). When the temperature is over 90 degrees with no rain, we should be watering these every other day. The best way is by putting a slowly dripping hose on these new plants for 15 plus minutes. Annuals in pots and baskets need a good soaking every day and when the heat breaks, annuals need a blast of a water-soluble fertilizer with a high phosphorus number on the label. Fertilizers usually show three numbers indicating the amounts of Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), Potassium(K). Right now, I am using Scotts Super Bloom 12-55-6 (N-P-K). For perennial flowers, we usually only water when plants look stressed.
Weeding! I love weeding—I think of it as a practice in slowing down. I weed when the weather is comfortable and I try to set aside a time when I only weed. When I’m only weeding, I don’t run off to find twine to stake a fallen plant or do other tasks; I just weed. While taking time out to just weed is calming, I also weed constantly. That is, whatever else I’m doing, if I see a weed, I pull it. (I pull it even when I have good clothes on and am going out—OK yes, I am a bit compulsive.)
August is also for walking around your yard and thinking about your space -- what works? what doesn’t work? What do I want to do in the yard? What changes can I make this fall in preparation for next year? I can help you with this. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for advice. I would love to come to your place and help you make your greenspace more beautiful and functional.
Off to the Garden Center –Tips for a Successful Adventure
It is that time of year, the weather is fresh and warm and the green surrounds us. It is time to add some interest and color to our landscape, off we go to the plant nursery where blooms envelop and intoxicate us. So, we fill our cart with beautiful flowers and plants envisioning a summer of pleasant blooms. However, when we get home, we have the vexing question of where to put our beautiful flora. Have we thought about what each plant needs, sun, shade, type of soil, drainage? How will the plants we purchase go with our established shrubbery? How much room will a shrub need when it matures?
So, what if we reversed the process? What if we first looked around our yard and decide where we want to focus our attention? Is it where we might eat dinner outside, is it along the path we take from our car to our door every day? Is it a window we look out when we are washing dishes? Focusing on one or two areas that we see or visit often will provide so much more beauty than the same number of plants scattered around our property. Say we decide to focus on our patio where we often sit for our morning coffee and maybe a drink in the evening. What are the conditions in the area—sunny or shading? What would liven up the space? Often a few beautiful pots with annuals can do wonders. Is there a view we would rather block? Would a few well-placed bushes hide it?
Now we may want to take a little time to do some research, So, we google shrubs for the shade, zone 5. (What is zone 5?) The zone we live in gives us an idea of what will grow here and is based on the average lowest temperature in an area. Most of Western Mass is zone 5 although with climate change, Hadley and Northampton may be able to grow zone 6 plants. In general, the lower the zone the hardier the plant.) When we see a plant we like we research it further: I often use the Missouri Botanical Garden site.
Now it is time to go to the nursery. So, we decide we want some pots with annuals. We look around to see what strikes our fancy. We read the tag, if it is beautiful now but it says “cool-weather annual” we know the plant will likely fade away in July. We read the tag of the plants that have not flowered yet. We google a plant we like to see what its requirements are.
We see beautiful annuals and perennials in large pots—wouldn’t those look nice near our patio? But when we see the price, we are a bit stunned. Do we need to have flower power now or can we wait a little while? Because I buy so many plants I almost always go for the smaller, less expensive plants. For example, I buy a six pack of melampodium (see picture below) knowing they will be dinner plate-size plants in July. I buy the quart size perennials instead of the gallon size one because the following year they will both be the same size. I also buy plants that have yet to flower—I buy black and blue salvia (the absolute favorite of hummingbirds) knowing one plant will fill the pot by July and I will be thrilled by watching and hearing my hummingbirds zipping by.
Shrubs and trees are an investment so it really pays to do some more research. Find the expert at the plant nursery and get them to give you the rundown; they can be extremely helpful.
I hope this helps you have a vibrant and wonderful garden this summer!