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GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written December 27, 2015

Now that we have almost closed the book on 2015, let us reflect a bit on the extraordinary weather of this past year and years past. It is no surprise that the summer of 2015 was the hottest on record in the region with a total annual precipitation of 3.72 inches. That is not much considering that 9.16 inches of moisture were lost through evapotranspiration (ET) during the month of August. Plus, some areas experienced limited irrigation water.

This extraordinary year was compounded by the fact that until 2015, 2014 was the hottest on record with 3.44 inches of precipitation, a total ET of 9.02 inches in August, and an unusually mild December. Also consider that 2013 was the 2nd hottest summer on record until 2015 with a total annual precipitation of 2.79 inches. Plus, the summer of 2013 was the 6th year of summer weather with near or above average temperatures.

That is a great deal of summer heat. Heat stresses plants, especially ones not well adapted to our hot summer climate. Heat stress is compounded by drought stress that results from limited irrigation water or improper watering practices. Drought stress may also be inflicted on a tree due to a lack of an adequate root system, physical injury to the trunk, restricted or girdling roots, compacted soil, or other factors that affect the tree’s ability to absorb or transport water to the top of the tree.

Stress on trees makes them more vulnerable to attack by certain insects, especially boring insects. As a result of the several years of summer heat stress that local trees have endured, we are seeing an increasing number of wood borers attacking local ornamental trees.

Even if a tree looks fairly healthy to you and me, it may become fodder for borers because it is stressed. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to attack by borers because stress causes them to produce volatile chemicals, such as terpenes, that attract boring insects.

In addition, some borers (such as bark beetles) will emit an aggregation pheromone (a chemical compound that elicits insect behavior) once it locates a stressed tree. This insect pheromone lets other bark beetles in the area know of a stressed tree’s presence. One bark beetle might not significantly harm a tree, but a bunch of them feeding spells trouble.

Once the volatile chemicals emitted by the tree and the aggregation pheromone gets a gang of bark beetles to the tree, they still have to get under the bark. As they start to eat their way into the tree, the sap pressure in a healthy tree will often drown or push them back out. However, in a stressed tree the sap flow is lower and they can successfully eat their way in.

The quote of “the best defense is a good offense” may or may not be true in sports, but it is very true when it comes to protecting your trees from boring insects. Keeping a tree healthy is not just its best defense against borers, in many cases it is the only defense.

We no longer have the long-term residual insecticides that were once used to protect trees from borers. Insecticide applications as a spray to the trunk are generally not a good “offense” and even the systemic insecticides applied to the soil or injected into the trunk are only effective against a few types of borers.

Hopefully in 2016 we will not experience another summer of extraordinary heat and limited irrigation water. If we do, make every effort to keep your trees healthy and “unstressed” to protect them from attack by borers.


GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Written July 2, 2015


I was trying to be optimistic and have avoided talking about the affects of all this extremely hot weather on our landscape and garden plants. However, continued record high temperatures in the region and some of the “warmest months” on record have compelled me to talk about the affects of heat on plants.

Perhaps you can recall learning about how plants take the sun’s energy via the process of photosynthesis to create carbohydrates. The carbohydrates provide the energy for plant growth. The rate of photosynthesis increases with increasing temperatures up to a point. Once temperatures reach about 95 degrees, the rate of photosynthesis decreases.

At the same time, higher night temperatures increase a plant’s rate of respiration. Respiration is the process that breaks down carbohydrates to provide the plant with energy. As a result of decreased photosynthesis and increased respiration, the plant has to start using its energy reserves. Sugars and other carbohydrates that would ordinarily be used for plant growth and the development of fruit are used to keep the plant alive. Plant growth slows to a stop along with the production of flowers and fruit.

However, there is more to the story. Plants use the process of transpiration to cool themselves, similar to our bodies producing sweat. Transpiration involves the absorption of water by the roots. The water then moves up through a plant into the leaves where it changes to water vapor and exits through pores, called stomates, in the leaves.

If a plant does not have an adequate root system or there is little available water, transpiration stops and the stomates close. When this happens, a plant has no way to cool itself. As a result, damage can occur to plant tissues in the form of sunburn or sunscald (large brown blotches), especially on a plant’s south and west sides. Other symptoms of heat damage include stalled growth, leaf drop, and even death.

In addition to the extraordinarily hot weather, many area gardeners are faced with a limited supply of irrigation water. Plus, the hot weather arrived so early in the season that some transplanted trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables may not have had the chance to grow a root system capable of absorbing adequate amounts of water to keep transpiration going.

The problems brought on by high heat are exacerbated when plants are surrounded by materials that absorb heat, such as dark rock mulches or brick walls, or situated next to surfaces that reflect light onto the plant, such as light colored building walls or white rock mulches.

What does this all mean? If hot weather persists, it means we may see sunscald on vegetable plant leaves and fruit, especially if gardeners are not able to keep the soil moist. Woody plant leaves may exhibit sunscald or leaf scorch (browning of leaf edges and tissues between the veins.) It also means plants are stressed. Woody plants will be vulnerable to attack by borers and other insects. Tree and shrub roots may succumb to dessication leading to dieback of branches from the top of the tree downwards now and in future years.
What can be done? If irrigation water is available, keep garden soil and container mixes evenly moist. Deep water trees. Apply a mulch of wood chips or bark in landscape beds if you don’t already have mulch in place. Mulch veggie gardens with compost or newspaper. Where practical, shade recent transplants during the heat of the day. Finally, hope that this weather moderates and cooler temperatures come quickly.

Local Evergreens Turning Brown and Dying

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written June 11, 2015

Several weeks ago I noted that a number of our local landscape plants were showing signs of problems related to last year’s hot summer and other extraordinary weather events. Now hot weather has arrived much too early and local pines, arborvitae, juniper, and other evergreens are “dropping like flies” causing shock and dismay. Both old mature trees planted 20 years ago or more and younger ones planted less than five years ago are turning brown and dying.

There are a number of factors that have led to this widespread browning and dieback of local evergreens. One is the watering habit of many tree owners. Despite me frequently urging owners to deep water trees and shrubs weekly during hot weather, few actually do this. Instead they rely on lawn watering during the growing season to meet the needs of their trees. This is typically very shallow watering and has subjected a number of trees to years of chronic drought stress. The cumulative effect of this stress has weakened the trees and made them more vulnerable to the weather extremes we experienced last year.

Past winter drought stress is another likely factor in evergreen dieback. While this past winter was fairly “wet” for us, in recent years the winter weather has been mild with little precipitation. That is why I also urge tree owners to take on the burdensome task of deep watering trees, especially evergreens, in October before irrigation water is turned off and monthly during dry, mild winter weather. Again, few do this resulting in additional drought stress.

At this point we might assume that last summer’s heat was the proverbial “straw that broke the came’s back,” but other factors could be contributing to the current dieback problem.

1. Girdling roots restrict the uptake of water. They are caused by a failure to adequately loosen and spread the roots at planting time.

2. In addition to loosening roots at planting time, proper planting techniques are important. Planting too deeply smothers the roots. Leaving plastic pots, biodegradable containers, and even treated burlap around the roots can delay or restrict root growth out of the original root ball.

3. In many landscapes, soil becomes compacted from lawn use or was compacted during home construction. Soil compaction prevents air and water from getting to the roots.

4. Sandy soils and shallow soils are not capable of retaining as much water as heavier or deeper soils, limiting the availability of soil moisture.

5. Physical damage to tree trunks from weed trimmers or mowers impedes the transport of water from the roots to the top of the tree, causing water stress in the top of the tree.

6. I am a strong advocate of mulches, but rock mulches and close proximity to concrete walls put additional heat stress on a tree and increase its need for water. Bark or wood chip mulches are recommended, but when applied in layers thicker than 3-4 inches, they restrict air and water movement.

The are many lessons to be learned from our current situation, but deep watering and keeping our trees and shrubs in good health is one of the most important. There is no one cause for the widespread browning and dieback of local evergreens, but the primary factors are watering, weather, and root problems.

Next week I’ll talk about wood boring insects that are exacerbating the dieback problem by attacking stressed trees and quickening their demise.

Conserving Water In The Landscape & Garden Part 2

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written May 14, 2015

This summer is going to be tough with irrigation water supplies down at least 54% in many areas and our governor declaring a drought in 24 counties. In past weeks we discussed conserving water in our yards and gardens with a focus on sprinkler irrigation, but we can save even more water by employing drip irrigation.

Dr. Troy Peters, WSU Extension Irrigation Specialist, indicates that at their best sprinklers are only 70 per cent efficient in delivering water to the soil where plants need use it. Drip irrigation is 90 to 95 per cent efficient.

If you make the decision to install a drip system to conserve water, you may become overwhelmed with designing the system and deciding what types of drip equipment to use. Thankfully, Dr. Peters authored a publication “Drip Irrigation for the Yard and Garden” which makes it much less of a puzzle for drip irrigation novices. In this easy-to-understand publication Peters discusses drip equipment, system design, and operation. It is available as a free download from the WSU Extension Online Store at:

While drip irrigation is outstanding for conserving water in gardens and landscape beds, it is difficult to employ for watering trees located in lawn areas. Unfortunately, homeowners usually rely on lawn sprinklers to provide for trees’ water needs. Lawn watering, especially the shallow watering practiced by many, does not provide adequate water for established trees located in lawns.

When watering trees, the soil should be moistened to a depth of at least12-18 inches in the tree’s “root zone” where most of the water absorbing roots are located. This root zone is not located close to the trunk of an established tree, it is at the tree’s “dripline” and beyond.

To picture the location of a tree’s dripline, think of a tree as an umbrella. The water absorbing roots are not located near the handle, they are at the edge of the umbrella’s protection and beyond. Peters points out that this active root zone is usually two to three times the diameter of the tree’s crown or “umbrella.”  That is where water should be applied.

Since regular lawn irrigation does not typically apply enough water for trees located in lawns and drip emitters would be impractical, some method is needed for applying water slowly to the root zone. This usually requires hauling out a hose and watering trees individually with a water sprinkler, soaker hose, drip tape, or drip tubing with emitters spaced along the entire line. The goal is to apply the water slowly enough so that it soaks in without running off.

Trees should be deep watered frequently enough to keep the soil in the root zone moist to a depth of 12-18 inches. During the hottest summer weather this can be once a week.

If water becomes extremely limited this summer, you may have to choose which plants in your landscape will get the available irrigation water. I personally would give a higher priority to saving established landscape trees. It is more difficult to replace them due to their size, the cost of removal and replacement, and the time it would take grow new trees.

As summer looms in the near future, now is the time for action. Tune up your irrigation system, water more deeply less frequently, mulch your garden and landscape beds, and consider installing drip irrigation where practical.

Helping Landscape and Garden Plants Cope with Drought

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Written April 2, 2015

With the prospect of limited irrigation water in the coming months, we may have to make agonizing decisions regarding which plants in our yards and gardens to save and which plants to let go. To me, it is like making ASophie=s Choice.@  Before making these difficult decisions becomes a necessity, there are some things we can do to make the most of the water that will be available.

As much as 50 percent or more of the water that is applied to bare soil is lost to the atmosphere through evaporation from the soil. The rate of evaporation increases with increasing air temperatures, solar radiation, and wind. In addition, the lower the humidity, the faster the evaporation. By applying a mulch in our landscape and garden beds we can reduce the amount of soil moisture lost through evaporation by as much as 50 per cent, depending on the type of mulch.

For landscape plants and perennial flower beds, I recommend using shredded bark or wood chip mulches applied on top of bare soil and maintained at a depth of 3-4 inches. Bark and wood chip mulches should not be used in vegetable gardens and annual flower beds because they will become incorporated into the soil. This causes a problem because soil microbes will use the nitrogen in the soil for the decomposition process, thereby tying up the nitrogen and making it unavailable to garden plants.

Where annual crops are grown and the soil is regularly tilled or disturbed, organic mulches that break down more quickly are advisable. I recommend applying well-rotted compost, lawn clippings mixed with compost, or lawn clippings as mulches. Keep in mind that the general recommendation is not to collect lawn clippings, but if you do have them available they can be recycled as a mulch. However, you should never use clippings if they have been treated with an herbicide without waiting the amount of time specified on the product label.

Never apply more than a one-inch layer of fresh grass clippings at one time because they mat down and start to decompose anaerobically, making a gooey mess. Instead, wait until the clippings last applied have dried, and then apply another one-inch or less layer. The clippings can be tilled into the soil at the end of the season, adding organic matter to the soil.

To increase the effectiveness of a grass or compost mulches, place one to two moistened sheets of newspaper on top of the soil, overlapping the sheets as you place them in the garden, and then cover the paper with a layer of mulch. (Without a cover of mulch, the newspaper will easily be blown away by wind.) Do not use glossy color sections of newspaper, as they may contain heavy metals or other chemicals that will contaminate the soil. The newspaper will decay over the growing season and then can be tilled into the soil along with the layer of mulch on top.

Rock mulches are suitable for areas vulnerable to wildfires or non-plant areas, but they should generally be avoided around landscape plants because they are heat sinks. The rocks absorb heat during the day and then radiate that heat back at nighttime, increasing the heat stress and water needs of plants. Light-colored and white rock also reflects light back onto plants compounding


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published – OCTOBER 31, 2014


The gardening season has come to what seems like a rather abrupt end, especially after balmy sunny weather just a couple of weeks ago. Now it is time for gardeners like me to evaluate what went well this year and what did not.

My biggest success was with my numerous large annual flower containers. At the beginning of the season I was dreading hand watering these planters every evening all summer long. Plus, going on vacation meant hiring a plant sitter to keep the flowers alive.

Listening to Dr. Troy Peters, WSU Extension Irrigation Specialist, talk about dripline tubing for irrigating raised vegetable garden beds and seeing the same type of product advertised in DripWorks’ ( catalog as part of a deck-garden drip irrigation kit inspired me to try watering my containers with drip irrigation again.

I previously experienced failure when I tried to water the same large pots with single sprinkler- type drip emitters placed in the center of each pot. They worked for a while, but when the plants grew taller they blocked the sprinkler emitters’ spray. After this earlier failure, I continued to laboriously water my pots by hand every summer.

Learning about the dripline products made me anxious to give drip irrigation another try. Rather than buy an on-line kit, I was able to purchase most of the needed supplies from local irrigation supply companies.

Before I go any further let me tell you about “dripline” or “emitter” tubing. It is plastic tubing (1/4 or ½ inch diameter) that is manufactured with hole-like emitters at regular spacings along the line, such as 6, 9, 12, or 18 inches.

The irrigation engineers indicate that dripline with turbulent flow emitters is “self-flushing and clog resistant” if you have a good (at least 200 mesh) filtration system. The other great feature of this special tubing is that the pressure-compensating design allows it to deliver water evenly along the entire length of the tubing.

I selected brown 1/4 inch dripline with emitters spaced at 6-inch intervals. With help, I placed a circle of the dripline on top of the potting mix before I planted my flower transplants. The brown line blends in with the potting mix. We then used 1/4 inch barbed fittings and black 1/4 inch drip tubing to connect the pots to a ½ inch delivery line running along the ground at base of the pots. The ½ inch line was connected to a timer and pressure reducer off of our irrigation water.

I used trial and error to determine how often and how long to run the timer. Once I was able to figure that out, I didn’t have to constantly worry about watering my pots. However, I did check them frequently and adjust the timer for warmer weather through the summer.

The drip system worked well. We were able to go away for a vacation. I did not have the tedious task of watering every day. The flowers flourished. The plants and I were both happy.

Published: 10/30/2014 12:43 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published- JUNE 20, 2014


It is estimated that over 50 percent of the water used by an average household is used for irrigating our lawns, landscape and garden. Luckily for us, we have enough water for irrigation this year. It looked like we might have to tighten our belts in regards to watering when the snowpack was well below normal in early winter. Fortunately, late winter snows in the Cascades saved us, but climatologists predict that our good fortune is not likely to last.

It is time to start learning and practicing water conservation now, so we will be prepared for any water shortages looming in the future. One way to conserve water is simply not to waste it. How often do you see irrigation water running down the street at this time of year? There are easy ways to avoid this wasteful runoff.

One way is to slow down. Often water is being applied faster than it can sink into the soil, especially on sloped areas. A simple solution is to apply the water more slowly in several short runs with a short break in between each application until a total of 1 to 1.5 inches of water is applied. This gives the water a chance to percolate down into the soil instead of running off.

Water only when needed. Often area residents rely on timers to turn water on and off based on a set daily schedule, never adjusting for weather or checking soil moisture to see if the lawn or plants actually need water. This ‘set it and forget it’ practice is easy, but wasteful. Plus, it does not encourage deep root systems or healthy plants.

Dr. Troy Peters, WSU Extension Irrigation Specialist, notes that your lawn and garden do not need the same amount of water in the spring and fall as they do in the hot part of the summer. For example, he indicates lawns in Yakima, WA ‘only use about .25 inch of water per week in April and October, 1.25 inches per week in May and September, 1.6 inches per week in June and August, and a little over 2 inches per week in July.’

If leave your controller programmed on a setting of 15 minutes every day for the entire season it probably means that you are applying too much water in the spring and fall and too little water in the middle of summer. Peters recommends resetting your timer at least once a month to adjust for the changing irrigation needs.

If your soil is a silt-loam, Peters also recommends putting all the water needed during the week on in one weekly irrigation, not just a little bit every day. Peters points out that ‘soil can only hold so much water.’ When you put on more water than the soil can hold, the excess water is wasted. During the summer when more than an inch of water per week is needed, Peters suggests splitting the total and applying half of the water with two separate runs per week if the soil is a silt loam. However, on sandy soils, you will have to irrigate more often, but should try not to irrigate every day if possible.

There are other ways to conserve lawn and garden irrigation water, but trying not to waste it is a good start.

Published: 6/20/2014 11:41 AM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published- JULY 18, 2014


It’s getting downright ugly out there. I am talking about the brown spots and large areas of lawn turning brown. It is unsightly, but it is not a surprise. There are a variety of possible causes for this blighting of our green grass but watering, other lawn care practices, and weather are at the root of the problem.

Despite the watering wisdom of ‘watering deeply and less frequently,’ most area lawn owners have not opted to follow this sage advice that I offer year after year… after year. I talked a little earlier this season about watering when plants need it, not by relying on a timer that is set at the beginning of the season and never adjusted.

This year we experienced extended cool spring weather. That did not keep the irrigation timers from being set as soon as water was available with the typical 20 minutes per day. Because of the cooler weather, grass remained wet for considerable lengths of time setting up the perfect conditions for damaging lawn fungi to attack.

Pythium may be one of the fungi causing problems. Pythium fungi attack and kill the roots and crown of the grass plants. During cooler weather the disease may start as small yellowish patches that coalesce into larger areas. When it turns warm the disease show up as large areas of wilted and dying turf.

This disease can be avoided with ‘deep, infrequent watering’ and irrigating early in the morning instead of late at night. To reduce spreading the disease, collect and remove grass clippings when you mow. Remove excessive thatch and do not fertilize heavily during warm weather.

Thatch, another topic I have covered numerous times, may also be one of the problems contributing to lawn ugliness. Thatch is an intermingled layer of organic matter that comes from the grass plant itself. It consists of undecomposed grass stem, crown, and root debris. Thatch is not caused by an accumulation of grass clippings as once thought. It results when the grass produces this material faster than it decomposes.

Lawns in our area are predisposed to develop thatch because our soils, especially sandy soils, are generally low in microbial populations responsible for breaking this organic matter down. Plus, most of our area lawns are comprised of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue grasses that form more thatch than bunch-type grasses, like turf-type perennial ryegrass.

Many poor lawn care practices encourage the buildup of thatch and discourage microbe populations. Frequent shallow irrigation promotes thatch. Excessive nitrogen fertilization makes grass grow faster and develop thatch at a quicker rate. Infrequent mowing encourages the development of stem tissue and more thatch. Excessive irrigation and compacted soil discourage microbe activity.

The best defense against thatch is good preparation of the soil before seeding or sodding a lawn, followed by sound lawn care practices. This includes deep, infrequent watering; mowing regularly at the recommended height; fertilizing at recommended rates; aerating to relieve soil compaction; and removing thatch when the layer exceeds one-half inch.

Finally, another common cause of large brown spots in lawns during this hot weather is sprinkler coverage. Check how much water is being applied to the brown areas when the sprinklers are on.

Speaking of water, be sure to drink plenty of it when you are gardening outside.

Published: 7/18/2014 11:38 AM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 1/24/14

I feel a little like Chicken Little, but local gardeners and homeowners should be afraid. This winter has been very dry and long range forecasts are not currently predicting any relief in sight , but optimistic climatologists say things could change. We=ll see.

Right now snowpack in the Olympics is at 26 per cent of normal and the Cascade watersheds are at or below 50 per cent of normal. This situation has been set up by a winter drought situation in all of Washington with precipitation for first three months of winter at only 55 to 65 per cent of normal. USDA=s Natural Resources Conservation Service predicts that our stream flows in spring and summer will be at 60 to 80 per cent of normal.

What that means for us gardeners is that irrigation water is likely to be in short supply during the coming growing season. Now is the time to start planning on how to cope with this impending drought.

1. Currently, local soils are quite dry since we also have experienced less winter precipitation than is normal in our area. (Gray, foggy weather doesn=t add moisture to the soil.) It will be important to get ahead of the game and deep water trees, shrubs, and perennial plants now. Before watering use a shovel to check for a frost layer in the soil that would prevent water from penetrating into the root zone of plants. If a frost layer persists, wait until it disappears and then water your plants.

2. Most vegetable crops need at least one inch of water per week during the growing season. As you are planning your vegetable garden for this coming season, think about what crops you want to plant. To conserve water, avoid wasting space by planting vegetables that take up lots of space, such as sweet corn, vining watermelon, vining winter squash, and peas. Look for bush and compact varieties of squash, cucumbers, melons, and even tomatoes that will take up less area in the garden. If you plant in rows in your garden, move the rows closer together, leaving you with less area that needs watering.

3. Keep weeds in check with frequent light cultivation. Weeds compete with your vegetables and flowering plants for both water and nutrients. Regular, shallow cultivation with a stirrup, scuffle or AHula hoe@ will keep weeds from stealing limited irrigation water. If you don=t have a good hoe, get one now and be ready. I bought the AHula hoe@ a year ago and was amazed at how well it works cutting off young weed seedlings.

4. If your vegetable, perennials, trees, and shrubs are being watered with sprinkler irrigation, consider putting in some type water conserving irrigation system, such as drip tape, soaker hoses, porous wall hoses, or a drip system.

What do you need for drip irrigation? Consult the WSU Extension fact sheet ADrip Irrigation for the Yard and Garden@ (Peters 2011, FS030E) that is available at no charge from WSU Extension at: The author, Dr. Troy Peters, will be just one of the WSU faculty addressing in the Master Gardener during their training program this year. He will discuss AHow You Know When to Water.@ The 15 session Master Gardener training program starts on Tuesday. If you are interested in applying or learning more about the program, call the WSU Extension office at 735-3551 by Monday.

As the growing season approaches, I=ll talk more on saving water in our yards and gardens.

Published: 1/24/2014 1:43 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 8/1/2013

I must admit that I’m a bit tired of having to water my large flower pots and container vegetables almost every night. After a month of very hot weather, it has becomes a tedious chore. This is the time of year when gardeners like me would like to sit back and enjoy our gardens, but there is always something to do. Here are some of those gardening ‘to-dos.’

One task I put off during hot weather was deadheading my perennial flowers. I plan to get out there soon and get rid of the many faded flowers. It should make the garden look more tidy and a bit less ragged.

I can’t reach the back of my beds easily with flower shears, so last year I bought a three foot long-reach pruner. It allows me to extend my reach to the back of the bed and cut off the spent flowers there. The ‘cut and hold’ feature of the pruner lets me snip off the stem and hold onto it for retrieval.

Individual cuts for deadheading perennials with lots of stems, such as lavender, is too tiresome of a task for hand shears or a long-reach pruner. To take care of the multitude of flowers stems on perennials like lavender and salvia, I deadhead using a small rechargeable electric hedge trimmer.

Isn’t it amazing how fast some weeds grow in hot weather? I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with weeding even during the hot weather, although some weeds were sneaky and hid under other garden plants. Whatever annual weeds have escaped your past scrutiny, they should now be pulled to prevent them from dropping their seed that will become next year’s weeds. Do not put annual weeds that have already flowered and gone to seed in the compost pile.

Speaking of weeds, do you mulch your perennials and landscape beds? I use shredded bark mulch. A three to four inch layer of an organic mulch like bark provides good weed control and helps conserve soil moisture. Late summer is a good time to think about renewing your mulch if it has decayed to a depth of less than three inches.

Last year at this time of year I was so proud of myself for buying plastic labels and labeling all of my perennials. I could never remember what perennial was coming up where in the garden. This spring I went out to my garden and found that the permanent pen that I had used wasn’t permanent on the labels. I was disheartened to find that the labels were all blank.

Now I have to label my plants all over again. This time I’m going to try a ‘Garden Marker’ pen that is designed for marking plant labels with ink that is UV resistant to reduce fading. There are more expensive labels that I could buy where you engrave the plant names on an aluminum or I could print out names from a label maker. I’ll let you know how it goes. Tip: An even less expensive way to label your plants is to cut off sections of old plastic mini-blinds to use as labels.

Not only is late summer a good time to label your plants, it’s also a good time to assess your garden and see if there are any plants you want to replace or perhaps some empty spaces you need to fill. I have some empty spots thanks to a pesky gopher that killed several plants. The gopher is gone and now I get the chance to try something different.

Even if your garden looks a little worse for wear after our hot spell, the gardening season isn’t over yet. I may be tired of watering, but I am enjoying all the delights of my garden, the flowers, the finches, the dragon flies, and the honeybees. How about you?

Published: 8/1/2013 11:34 AM

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