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15 Top Summertime Lawn and Garden Tips

Summer heat creates a new set of tasks and challenges for your lawn and garden care. Take note of these 15 tips — and your outdoor spaces will thrive. You’ll have a lovely lawn and garden all summer that will be ready for the next phase of alterations in the fall.

  1. Summertime brings a spike in insect and disease populations and using pest controls is a personal decision you’ll need to make. There are numerous options for pest control for your lawn, including letting nature run its course and living with your losses — or taking preventive measures by applying a chemical at the onset of a pest problem.
  2. Don’t forget your lawn and garden while on vacation. Find a friend or professional gardener to water your container plantings while you are away. Your annual flowers may require watering at least once a week, as well.
  3. When it comes to your vegetable garden, squash vine borer, cucumber beetles, bean leaf beetles, Japanese beetles, corn earworms, and stalk borers are common summer pests. There are numerous insecticides on the market for the wide variety of insects found in a vegetable garden. These products include chemical, biological, and botanical active ingredients. Explore your options before using insecticides and give consideration to the time of day you spray and how it may affect beneficial insects in your garden.
  4. Irrigate as needed during the dry summer months. An irrigation system can be fitted with a rain sensor to save water and avoid operating on rainy days; after all, afternoon thunderstorms can produce a lot of rainfall. However, in sandy soils of the coastal regions, lawns may suffer if not monitored for water loss. Tall fescue and bluegrass lawns can survive with only minimal water, as they go into dormancy if not fertilized and irrigated in late spring. Warm-season turfgrass varieties, like Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia should be fertilized monthly during the summer, or as needed based on a soil test.
  5. Mow lawns as needed but cut no more than one-third of the height of the grass. This ensures that the root system is not stressed. Clippings can be left on tall fescue lawns to recycle nutrients and add organic matter back into the soil. Raise the cutting height on cool-season grasses in shady lawns during the summer months. This also helps reduce weed infestations and support grass root systems.
  6. Irrigation and mulching are important practices for successful landscape gardening. Experiment with drip irrigation and other low-volume systems to conserve water. Rain barrels that receive storm water from your gutters are a good way to supply moisture to thirsty flower gardens.
  7. Early July is the last call for pruning ornamental shrubs, such as azaleas and spring flowering bushes. It is important to water pruned shrubs for normal recovery. Shear evergreen hedges as needed during the summer months. Boxwoods are best pruned in early spring.
  8. Staking gladiolus, dahlias, and other lanky perennials is important to prevent stem breakage and enhance the flower display. The choices of staking materials run the gamut, from bamboo stakes and sticks to hardware cloth and rebar. Rebar, commonly used in home construction, can be a useful material to create sturdy forms for tall perennials and supporting annual vines. Use heavy gauge wire to form a teepee-like trellis. Garden twist-ties and cable ties attach well to wires.
  9. Snakes are a common sight during this time of year. Most are friendly — and are good to have around for eradicating pesky voles and mice. Remove them with a long pole if you have a phobia of snakes. Removing brush and piles of wood, as well as eliminating mice, are important strategies for keeping snakes away from a home. Bird netting strung around an area at ground level will trap snakes, though you should monitor the trap and release captured snakes promptly.
  10. Vegetable and herb plantings benefit from routine fertilizing on a monthly or six-week schedule. Do not fertilize on dry garden soil. It is better to wait for rainfall or after irrigating. Most fast-growing vegetables prefer generous applications of nitrogen from calcium nitrate, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, or manures. Container plantings are best fed with specialty fertilizers or organic fertilizers.
  11. As cool-season vegetables come out of the garden, refresh the soil with compost, manure, or nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer before planting or sowing successive crops. For example, a legume cover crop can be planted following sweet corn to replace nutrients and improve the soil after it is turned under a couple months later.
  12. It is often difficult to give gardeners specific instructions on watering a garden. Considering water lost through plant use (transpiration) and evaporation on a hot afternoon, a garden that is only 100 square feet in size will utilize the equivalent of a 55-gallon drum of water or more on a weekly basis. While woody plants can tolerate less water, vegetable plants will suffer if water is unavailable, reducing yield and threatening their very survival.
  13. In the mountain regions, cold crops and vegetable seeds of early maturing varieties can be sown for the fall garden. Tomato suckers can be rooted and set out into the garden to extend the season. Transplants of collards, kale, Swiss chard, and brussels sprouts can be planted.
  14. Summer is a great time to prune, but don’t mistake tree pruning as “topping” shade trees, which is not a recommended practice by certified arborists. The general rule of thumb is to remove no more than 15 percent of the tree’s foliage. Trees that are too large for a yard are best removed and not topped.
  15. Garden centers often run deep discounts in summer to clear out the spring inventory. While this is a great opportunity to expand your garden, beware of plants that have dead roots and may need extensive care to survive.

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