Garden Smarts for the Summer

by Charlie Thigpen

A Garden

Who knows what the weather will be like this month? June was brutal with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s with little rain. The unseasonably hot, dry weather made us quickly forget spring as we leapt into the middle of summer. Unfortunately July, August and even September in Birmingham should bring much of the same, so get ready. We need to get into survival mode to beat the heat.

Think Before You Plant

If you do have to set out plants, make sure they are adequately irrigated or planted near a spigot and within reach of your garden hose. Also make sure new plantings are very visible where you can keep your eye on them daily. A plant that dries out this time of year will quickly perish.

Seek plants that don’t require lots of water, such as ornamental grasses, succulents, portulaca, salvia, lantana and verbena. Don’t fertilize too often and push your plants, shrubs and turf, because during droughts you’ll have a hard time supplying water to their hefty, fast-growing tops. To avoid evaporation, water early in the morning so water will soak into the ground. Cover the ground around planting beds with a thick layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. Mulch will also discourage weeds that can compete with your plants for water and nutrients.

Beat the Heat

Try to do all of your garden chores early in the morning or in the late afternoon hours. If you do have to work while the sun is out, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and take breaks often. Wear a big hat and slather on the sunscreen. Plan your tasks and try to work in sunny areas early before the sun gets high in the sky, and work in the shady locations during the heat of the day.

Splash into Summer

Think about installing a small water feature to help sooth summer’s sizzle. The sound of splashing water will provide cool, calming thoughts and attract birds to your landscape. If you don’t want the expense or maintenance of a fountain think about purchasing a birdbath. When it’s hot and dry, our feathered friends need a place to drink and bathe. Change the water every three to four days to prevent breeding mosquitoes.

Outdoors After Dark

When the sun goes down don’t forget about your garden. It can be a great place to dine or gather while the temperatures are tolerable. By using low-voltage lighting or candles you can surround yourself with inexpensive mood lighting.  An overhead ceiling fan or an oscillating fan on a deck, porch or patio can help keep you cool and keep the mosquitoes at bay. Containers with white blooms show up best in low light, and can add to your after–dark experience. So don’t let the heat keep you indoors. With a little common sense you can enjoy your landscape this summer.

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