Social Distance XVI – Summer Tasks

Our first day of this year’s summer arrived on June 20th, so we’re already well into the season. We’re also well into this year’s historic pandemic season, which we all hope and trust will end before long, and not return.

We are seeing many thoughtful and creative advisories on coping with the challenges of this crisis. Here are some recent examples oriented to health and emotional well-being: 

  • Care for Your Health
  • Confirm Your Responsibilities (e.g., wear a mask)
  • Vary Your Media Choices
  • Share Your Time and Assets
  • Continue Your Protections

As we consider these recommendations  and expand upon them from our individual perspectives, we recognize them as the beginnings of good advice.

This column adds three categories of gardening activities that can provide opportunities for our creative energies, always desirable exercise, and payoffs in the quality and enjoyment of our living environments.

Care for Your Garden

At this time of the year, caring for your garden focuses on maintenance activities.

Installation of  new plants would be best scheduled for the fall, after the hottest months have passed and the rainy season will soon water your plants. Some plants, e.g., irises, Shasta daisies, etc., can be divided and replanted later in the summer. Many bulbs, e.g., daffodils, can be lifted now and replanted in the fall.

Most pruning of trees and shrubs should be done during the dormant season, but several pruning-type tasks are appropriate for the summer months. Do not prune flowering shrubs that are setting buds for the next season. Examples include lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and others. Summer pruning tasks include deadheading flowering plants and herbs to encourage compact growth and avoid setting of seeds and cutting back spring bloomers to promote reblooming, except when you are encouraging plants to self-spread or gathering seeds for planting or sharing. Other seasonal pruning task: removing suckers from hybridized fruit trees and shrubs (e.g., roses).

Watering plants could require regular attention. Plants in containers might need daily watering, and plants in the ground should be monitored during dry weather. Water only when the soil has become dry, and schedule watering for early morning or evening, rather than during the hottest part of the day. When irrigating late in the day, avoid the development of fungus and disease by keeping moisture off the leaves with drip irrigation or low-level hose irrigation.

Weed management could be prioritized during the summer months. Manual removal of perennial weeds is always a good idea, and removal of annual weeds should be done before they set seeds. Some gardeners find weeding to be therapeutic in some respect, but serious weed management methods could be considered, particularly short-term solarization with plastic sheeting and smothering with a layer of cardboard covered by organic mulch.

Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

The University of California’s Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program provides excellent online information on weed control. Browse to and search for “weed management.” For details of the solarization method, search the same site for “soil solarization.”

Any of the other summer-season topics can be researched on the Internet. A search for “pruning plants” could yield an unmanageable flood of information, so searching for “pruning [your plant]” is more likely to provide advice for immediate practical use. As always, searching for a plant by its botanical name works best.

Enrich Your Gardening Days

The regular pursuit of seasonally appropriate garden priorities can be a satisfying experience. To increase the likelihood of this outcome, prepare yourself with studying in advance and schedule your work sessions during cooler times and days.

Keep your emotions positive and your viruses negative and enjoy your garden.

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