Landscaping & Lawn Care

1. Warm-season lawns benefit from timely irrigation during dry summer months. While July weather can produce a lot of rainfall with thunderstorms common, sandy soils in the coastal region lawns can suffer if not monitored for needed water. (Tall fescue/ bluegrass lawns can survive with minimal irrigation since they go into dormancy if not fertilized.)

2. Warm-season turfgrass varieties, like Bermuda grass, St. Augustine and zoysia, should be fertilized monthly during the summer months. For more information on lawn management, request or download a copy of the “Lawn Maintenance Calendar” from N.C. Cooperative Extension. (Tall fescue lawns should not be fertilized unless they are managed under routine irrigation and the care of a professional lawn service.)

3. Mow lawns as needed but remove 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 to the soil. Raise the cutting height on cool season lawns during the summer months; as this helps reduce weed infestations and support grass root systems.

4. 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 collect stormwater from your gutters are one way to supply moisture to thirsty flower gardens.

5. Prevent crabgrass seedlings and other summer weeds that germinate in July. Slow-release fertilizers that contain a crabgrass preemergence herbicide are a convenient way to provide continuous nutrition to ornamental plantings and reduce weeding time. Hand removal of crabgrass in edible plantings is made easier by pulling them after a rain or irrigation application.

6. Prune off dead rose blossoms by clipping the stem above the first set of five leaflets beneath the flower on hybrid teas or flower cluster with shrub roses. Pinch out the top buds of dahlias and mums for bushier plants and more flowers later in the season.

7. Many ornamental shrubs, such as azaleas and spring-flowering bushes, form flower buds in late summer. July is the last call for pruning these shrubs. It is important to water pruned shrubs for normal recovery.

8. Staking gladiolus, dahlias, crocosmia 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 tobacco 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. Using heavy gauge wire to form a teepee-like trellis, rebar is a very sturdy support for vigorous vines in the garden.

9. Beware of poison ivy as you head out for a camping trip or hiking a favorite mountain trail. Poison ivy can be identified by its foliage — 3 leaflets per leaf — and growth habit as either a groundcover or tree-climbing vine.

10. Snakes are a common sight during this time of year. Most are friendly and good to have around for eradicating pesky voles and mice. They can be found basking in the morning sun and can be removed with a long pole if you have a phobia of snakes. Snake repellents are general waste of money. Removing brush or wood piles and eliminating mice are important strategies for keeping snakes away from a home. Bird netting strung around an area at ground level with trap snakes. Monitor these snake-catches and release captured snakes to another location. Poisonous snakes, although less frequent in urban settings, can be identified by their triangular shaped head, nostril pits and blunt tail. Being bitten by a poisonous snake in the garden is less likely than being struck by lightning.

11. Summer is a great time to prune, thin canopies or limb up shade trees. Do not mistake tree pruning as “topping” shade trees which is NOT a recommended practice by certified arborists. The general rule of thumb is remove no more than 15% of the tree’s foliage. Trees that are too large for a yard are best removed and not topped.

Fruit and Vegetable Gardens

12. Vegetable and herb plantings benefit from routine fertilizing on a six-week schedule. Do not fertilize dry garden soil. Wait for rainfall or fertilize after irrigation. 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 or organic fertilizers.

13. As cool-season vegetables are rouged out of the garden, refresh the soil with compost, manure or nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer before planting or sowing successive crops. 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.

14. 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 applied 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.

15. 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 plethora 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 the effective on beneficial insects in the garden. Always wear chemical resistant gloves and goggles when mixing and applying pesticides.

16. In the mountain regions, cole 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.

17. 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 dying roots and may be extreme care and coddling to survive.

18. Be certain you have a friend or professional gardener irrigate you container plantings while you are away on vacation. Check on them every third day or sooner. Your annual flowers may require watering at least once a week, as well.

19. Slugs or snails are active in flowerbeds and edible gardens. Use a slug bait with the active ingredient iron phosphate, as it is nontoxic to children and pets. Also, fruit peeling placed under board or plywood will attract slugs to aggregate in central location where they can be physically collected and destroyed.

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For more than 30 years, Bost was a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide.

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