This summer gardens and outdoor green spaces often look limp and lifeless due to lots of hot, sunny days and limited precipitation. No need to despair, just a few simple tips can help to rejuvenate any outdoor space well into fall – and be water-wise as well.
Mulch adds a nice, finished look to beds, paths and containers alike. It also helps to keep weeds out by blocking access to sunlight, reduce competition for water and nutrients from weeds, retain moisture in the soil where the roots can access it and moderate soil temperatures. In essence, mulching around plants, trees and shrubs is fundamental to keeping water where it is needed. Mulch your landscape beds at a depth of 2 to 3 inches of straw, shredded leaves, or bark mulch. Here’s another tip: Ever see mounds of mulch piled up around a tree base, sometimes called a “mulch volcano”? Don’t do this. Piling mulch up against the trunk of trees, shrubs, and other plants damages them. Properly applied mulch should taper from thin (less than 1 inch) at the base of the tree to thicker (2 to 3 inches) as you move out.
Food and water
Just like humans, plants need food and water. Regular feeding and watering can help your plants thrive in hot summer weather. Make sure to water wisely. Make sure to water in the morning between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m. to reduce wind effects on sprinkler uniformity and reduce evaporation loss. Water when needed and before leaves wilt. The best way to water roots is with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system that puts moisture at soil level where it is directly available to the plants’ roots.
Dead-head and cut back
With flowering plants, be sure to dead-head the blooms when they start to wilt. This will keep the plant producing blooms much longer. Feel free to leave a few seed heads on perennials to encourage re-seeding for next year. If you have not already done so, prune early blooming shrubs and perennials to encourage new growth. You could even get an extra bloom or two out of some perennials this way.
Fill in the blanks
Even seasoned gardeners’ beds can suffer from unsightly gaps in beds this time of year. Whether some plants have been lost or early perennials and bulbs have been cut back after blooming, sometimes garden beds need a little help by mid to late summer. This is a great time to pop in some annuals for an added splash of color. Plant fresh, new annuals in-ground or in containers, and spread a bright new wave of blooms around your outdoor space. Many nurseries have a wide selection on sale now too. Just be sure to water daily until established.
In edible gardens, it is always important to harvest fruits, vegetables, greens and herbs in a timely fashion. If you harvest more than you can possibly eat, try canning, drying or just simply sharing. Many areas of the country have food pantries that take fresh vegetable donations in the summer.
Weeds like to move in when plants are stressed from drought and heat. Then they steal moisture and nutrients, which stresses your plants even more. If you have an overabundance of weeds creeping into flower beds and vegetable gardens, take action now. Be careful not to spray the plants you like. If you accidentally spray your flowers and vegetables, wash them off immediately with water.
A great way to bring back those fading colors of summer and add a fresh look to the patio, porch or balcony is with new pillows or cushions. This time of year most retailers have outdoor furniture and furnishings on sale so a new color scheme isn’t necessarily out of reach. Also, add color with some fresh new containers, a splash of paint on old furniture or a new set of serving ware and napkins for a dinner party.
Lighting is always a fun way to perk up any space, especially an outdoor space. Whether adding a strand of twinkle lights around the porch, a few solar lanterns to light a path or some new candles to illuminate a dinner on the balcony, lighting can make all the difference. Recycle mason jars and wine bottles into new lanterns by filling with candles or a string of twinkle lights.
Don’t let the heat of summer destroy the garden. All is not lost when plants start to wilt; just following these few simple steps can bring new found color and interest to any outdoor space at this time of year. You might even start wishing that summer would last a bit longer.