Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking Stock Again

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website.

What a summer. Perhaps not a true record breaker but I did hear that the recent and much needed rainfall surpassed a record set in 1901.

I admit this writing is a reworking of some insights previously shared. Let’s call it another form of recycling. On the other hand, think of it as your favorite laundry detergent, much of the ingredients remain the same, just new and improved.

It is often during these dog days of summer our gardens appear to be out of control. This is the time of the year I suggest walking around the garden to see what is successful and what isn’t. The absence of rain or diligent deep watering has kept this season’s beds a little less vibrant and congested. Therefore, this season your focus will be on other conditions.

Additionally, I hear that we are in for another wave of heat. This means we have some work to do and soon. The key for this exercise is to prepare with preventative measures. Armed with Journal, pen and/or digital camera walk around your landscape.

So, how do your plants look? Stressed? Wilted? To get to the root of the problem, gently scratch an inch below the surface. Dry?! Where did the record rain run? What of your watering? I cannot stress enough the importance of a long slow trickle. I admit, standing with a hose may cool you off and is better than nothing, it doesn’t do the job. Sprinkles are better but still not enough. Soaker hoses. That is the ticket. No need to install expensive irrigation if you don’t have the funds. Soaker hoses can be snaked throughout your garden. Most quality hoses even withstand our Maine winters. Allow for 2-4 inches per week. To keep shrubs and foliage plants looking perky, a misting early in the day or at dusk is a true refresher.

I plead guilty when it comes to my personal garden. Hand watering early morning & early evening still left some plants less than happy. It pained me to cut back some of my Echinacea, yarrow and Veronica. Pain cured when the results were the perfect medicine for these rebloomers. Shasta daisies are sporting buds on dwarfed stems. Same for my Globe Thistle. Others such as Daylilies are set for an early rest. I carefully chose plants that would not be harmed by late season growth. August? Late Season?

It seemed as if this gardening season was jump started by a month with all blooms along for the ride. How often did we hear ‘isn’t it early for (fill in the blank) to be blooming?’ Shearing these particular perennials should keep blooms booming for weeks to come.

As I review the landscapes of my clients it is evident that shade perennials are suffering the most. The plants I love the best for shaded areas, heuchera, astilbe and Cimicifuga (now known as Actea aka snakeroot, black cohosh etc) are cloaked in capes of dry crinkled foliage where lush leaves once were. Plants that are used to shaded and slightly moist soil are hit the hardest. To offer solace I resorted to covering the area with a compost and mulch mixture. Coast of Maine’s Fundy Blend is a tonic in a bag. In taking stock I will stock this product at all times. It will join my perennial favorite, Coast of Maine’s Penobscot Blend. I also cannot forget to leave room for Worm Castings. Coast of Maine introduced their own bag of worm waste. I must thank them for housing it in a carry bag. This made life so much easier as I happily hand hauled it to all my container plantings. A perfect top dressing to improve the water retention.

Gardeners are cursed with selective memory. We will forget the effects of a drought during the rains of next spring. Weather happens in patterns. Several Mays and last June had many a gardener prone to webbed hands. Did we ever think we’d experience a hot arid summer again? Take stock for the future. Be prepared. Purchase that soaker hose, grab a bag of organic compost & mulch blend. And don’t forget the worm’s contribution!

However, don’t stop now. Step back; look at your landscape with the eye of a visitor. What is it that you see? How would you react if seeing it for the first time? Look for empty pockets, or crowding. Is there evidence of, mildew or fungus? How about pest damage? What about color, too much, not enough? If you do just not ‘love’ something, jot it down.

August may not be the best time to divide, move, and/or transplant. The weather is too hot, often too dry, though now you know how to water, and will unduly stress plants and the humans that love them. I’m not saying it cannot be done, however if at all possible wait until late fall, or early spring as may be appropriate. Who am I kidding? We will do what we will. If something is being choked and/or not able to be seen, then by all means, cut back or move what ever is in the way. A plants life just may be at stake. (If you do transplant now, just water, water, water!)
Not up to doing this now? Prefer to wait? Congratulations! However, you’re not getting off that easy.

Love everything in your garden? Pleased with the results? Do not put that camera or journal away. Record the pleasures.

In any case, you’ve worked hard. Pour yourself another glass of Ice Tea and relax…………..

KCB for the Skillin's Garden Log
August 27, 2010

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