Summers are so short here that it behooves us to make the most of the season. That includes doing what you really like to do – camping, boating, swimming, sitting in the shade reading – but not landscape maintenance. About the only landscape maintenance that should even be considered in summer is watering if it’s dry and mowing if it isn’t. And hiring our arborists if your tree(s) need pruning or repair.
Plants actually rest in summer. So you should, too. If the weather is dry, turfgrass goes dormant and turns brown. You can either water it or just stay off it and it will green up again when the weather moderates and the rains return in the fall. If the summer is rainy and the grass continues to grow, you’ll need to continue mowing.
Like turfgrass, annuals, perennials and new trees and shrubs need at least an inch of water a week. If that water doesn’t come in the form of rain, then it’s up to you. Other plants don’t go dormant like turfgrass; they just slow down. Plants prefer to get their inch of water allotment all at once, rather than a little spritz every day. Short of an automatic irrigation system, the most economical way to water is with soaker hoses. They are made of porous rubber from recycled tires.
Soaker hoses should be snaked through the root zone of your plants, covered with mulch and connected to an outdoor spigot. Turn the spigot only a quarter turn. Too much pressure will blow holes in the porous rubber. Soaker hoses should be left on for a half hour to an hour, depending on how dry the soil is around the plants. The water should ooze out of the rubber, mimicking a drip irrigation system.
Sprinkling is not recommended. When water is sprayed on a hot day, much of it evaporates before reaching the ground, resulting in a lot of wasted, expensive water. Watering your lawn is an exception. The only way to cover large areas is with a sprinkler. The oscillating type sprinkler works best.
With plants resting, there should be nothing for you to do, unless you are one of those rare people who enjoys pulling weeds. Forcing maintenance on your landscape plants in summer is like waking up a sleeping child or pet to feed them or give them water. If your green thumb is getting itchy, why not visit one of the fine public gardens in our area like Highland Park, Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua or Cornell Botanical Gardens in Ithaca?
Rest now; fall will be here soon, and with it will be plenty of opportunity to flex your green thumb then.