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Mornings best for tending summer landscapes

July is here and it can be one of the busiest times of the year when it comes to your landscape. If your outdoor “to do” list isn’t quite full, here a few ideas to keep you busy...

Number one on your list: Watch out for your own health and well-being while you’re working outside at this time of year! The best time to be outside tending to your assorted flora is early in the morning. If that’s impossible, avoid the temptation to be out in the midday sun and wait until the cool of the evening. Take a bottle of water with you and keep hydrated!

While we’re talking about water, remember to keep your lawn lush using your sprinkler, particularly when Nature isn’t providing sufficient rainfall. You can find some previous columns on the subject of summer lawn care archived at my Web site. Simply go to www.landsteward.org and scroll through the columns under The Plant Man heading.

Remember that lawns do better when they receive a thorough but infrequent soaking rather frequent shallow soakings. Why? Shallow watering encourages the formation of thatch and lawn weeds.

Another lawn tip: For best results, don’t mow wet grass! Wait until your lawn is dry before firing up the mower. Do it the way professional landscapers and mow in alternate directions each time. Did you mow north-south last time? This time switch to an east-west pattern and you’ll have a smoother, more velvety lawn.

When it comes to watering shrubs, forget the sprinkler and get out the soaker hose. The main benefit of the soaker hose is that the water can gently ooze out and gently permeate the soil rather than simply running off. Additionally, a soaker hose averts the risk of disturbing the soil around delicate plants which can be the case with more high-pressure watering methods.

In a week or so, some of your annuals might be displaying that “leggy” look that might fine for runway models but isn’t so attractive for plants. If your petunias are looking leggy, but you don’t want to lose too many flowers all at once, try this: prune back one long stem each week. Trim back to a set of leaves or a node and you’ll encourage new growth from that point. The result? A more bushy, eye-pleasing look.

Did you plant a container herb garden the way I urged you to do? If so, this month you’ll be stepping out of your kitchen and snipping fresh herbs to add to your favorite recipes. (If you didn’t set up a container herb garden, make plans NOW to do it next year!)

Right now, the basil should be perfect and that means it’s pesto time! Instead of removing individual leaves, I find it’s better to clip off entire stems and then remove the leaves in the kitchen. You’ll be encouraging a bushier basil plant, putting out more leaves and fewer flowers. Pesto is that delicious sauce, originating in the Genoa region of Italy, combining fresh basil with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and other tasty ingredients. If you’d like me to send you a simple pesto recipe that Cheryl and I love to make using our fresh basil, simply drop an e-mail to [email protected]

Okay, here comes the “W” word: weeding. About once a week, get out there early in the morning (see rule number one, above) and pull some of those weeds. If there was a dew or some light rain, the weeds will slip out more easily from the moist soil at that time of day. And a weekly “weed control patrol” will keep the green monsters from ruling your landscape!

Feeling a little weary? Maybe in need of some motivation and inspiration? Here’s an idea: visit a botanical garden or arboretum in your area. It’s a peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a few hours, even for those members of your family who might not share your enthusiasm for trees, plants and shrubs.

If you need help, a good place to start is at a Web site sponsored by the National Gardening Association: http://www.garden.org/public_gardens/ There you’ll find a Public Garden Locator that you can search by city, state, zip code etc. You can click on a hot link from my Web site if you prefer. Go to www.landsteward.org and click on the link in this column archived under the Plant Man column.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org