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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of July 18, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Despite some recent showers, much of Massachusetts is still under a drought watch and drought advisory, as declared by the Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force.  The dry conditions have taken their tDay Lilyoll on many plants in gardens and home landscapes.  However, an herbaceous plant which seems to be taking the drought in stride and is putting on quite a show this summer is the day lily, better known to botanists as Hemerocallis.  Ability to tolerate drought is just one feature which makes it a popular perennial plant of home gardeners. Often referred to as the “perfect perennial”, it adapts readily to different soil and light conditions, requires minimal maintenance, and has few pests and diseases.  Another factor in its popularity is the tremendous range of flower colors, sizes, and forms.  Even the most finicky gardener is bound to find some varieties to their liking, given that there are about 75,000 registered cultivars (cultivated varieties), but who’s counting. Perhaps the best way to determine which type of daylily you like is to visit an American Hemerocallis Society Display Garden. The Societies web site lists gardens in this region which are open to visitors. Since most of the display gardens are at private homes, you have to call ahead to arrange a visit.  One public display garden of historical significance is located at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Mass.  Also keep in mind that local garden centers have many cultivars of day lily for sale.

In the meantime:

  • Always wash your hands before preparing any freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Then rinse the produce well in lukewarm water. This is a safety precaution, especially necessary if pesticides or manure products have been applied to the garden.
  • Apply sunscreen, wear a wide brimmed hat, and drink plenty of water when working in the garden during this latest heat wave.  Also, try to limit work to the early and late hours of the day.
  • Set the cutting height on the lawn mower to three inches or more.  The types of grasses used in home lawns, i.e. fine fescues and Kentucky bluegrass, are not adapted to low mowing, especially in hot weather.
  • Cut back the shoots of basil now that they are starting to flower.  Use the basil leaves to make pesto.  Surplus pesto can easily be frozen, but leave out the grated Parmesan if freezing since it will cause the thawed pesto to be lumpy.  Incorporate the cheese after thawing frozen pesto. After cutting back basil foliage, apply a liquid fertilizer to plants.
  • Hill up soil around the stems of leeks every few weeks.  This is done to blanch the stems.  There’s no particular time to harvest leeks as they’ll continue to grow right up to the time that the ground begins to freeze.  I usually wait until the stems are as thick as my thumb and then harvest the leeks as I need them.

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