Help for your garden and landscape during the dog days of summer
EIn the landscape
The meaning of the saying “dog days of summer” has more to do with astrology than hot weather. The rising of the Dog Star, or Sirius, just before sun-up in late July was noted by ancient Greeks and Romans. Over the centuries many stories about “dog days of summer” sprang up in folklore. The tales blamed floods and even sour wine on the dog days, and Homer even associated disasters and wars with these days from July through mid-August.
Now, we can all agree on one thing — it’s hot!
• Help your lawn by keeping it cooler. Let it grow a little longer between mowing, up to 3 to 4 inches. The additional leaf area cools and shades the crowns of the grass.
Let grass clippings remain to add valuable nutrients to the soil.
Water lawns in the morning, infrequently and deeply — to a depth of 4 inches. No need to fertilize cool-season lawns, aerate or apply weed killers when temperatures are high.
• Pay attention to your tree’s
Ewatering needs. Trees within lawns generally get enough moisture. Trees without lawn irrigation — near streets, in sidewalk plantings or dry parts of the landscape — will need supplemental watering down to a depth of 12 inches.
Evergreens or conifers may be showing signs of stress with needle discoloration and browning. There can be several reasons for these conditions, including improper planting, cultural care (lack of year round moisture or exposure to road salts), environmental stresses, pests and disease. It is common for older needles to drop during late summer into fall; timing varies per type of cultivar.
Schedule a professional arborist or consult with knowledgeable garden centers or county master gardeners for assistance.
•A void planting or transplanting perennials during the heat of summer. Plant in the evening or on cloudy days and cut the foliage back by a third to help the roots establish. Water daily for several days. Rig a shade cloth using sheets or row cover over a tomato cage to prevent heat stress.
Vegetables and herbs
• Consistent high temperatures (in the 90s) can be tough on plants and may cause blossom drop, which means less fruit. This is common on squash, zucchini, tomatoes and green beans. Blossom drop can also be caused by under-watering and over-fertilization. Shade netting can reduce temperatures by 10 or more degrees, depending on the quality of shade cloth used.
• Large, leafed vegetables like cucumbers, melons and squash are quick to wilt during the heat of the day. If they are getting enough water they will revive in the evening. Vegetables require deep watering and mulch to keep soils cool. Both help prevent leaf wilt.
• If you have room in the vegetable garden, start the fall garden this month by direct seeding crops that need 60 days or less to grow and mature (check seed packet). Choose from basil, green beans, cucumber, okra, New Zealand spinach, summer squash, parsley, bunching onion, cilantro, Swiss chard and beets.
• Be sure to share extra harvest goodies with friends, neighbors, shelters and food pantries.