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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of June 20, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Mother Nature checked the calendar and saw that summer began this week.  She was a bit impatient by dropping steamy weather on us a few days ahead of the official start to summer, but she made no bones about it being time for the hazy, hot, and humid stuff.

Hanging PlantI’m sure that I was not the only one who wilted in the heat while working in the garden this past weekend.  That’s not surprising because our bodies are not yet acclimated to these conditions, especially after enduring the chilly conditions earlier this month.  As such, it is important to take some precautions when working outdoors now and for the rest of the summer in order to avoid heat related illnesses.

To start with, drink plenty of water when gardening in the heat.  Also, take frequent breaks or stop gardening during the hottest time of the day.  If gardening in the sun, wear a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and apply sunscreen.  Because we get so involved in our work, it’s easy for heat stress to overtake us before we are aware of it.  So, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and the more serious condition of heat stroke.  Get information on heat related illnesses at your doctor’s office or from this website.

Some summer gardening tips:

  • Water the soil around vegetable plants rather than applying water over the top of plants.  This will help reduce the incidence of leaf diseases on vegetable crops.  If using sprinklers to water the garden, turn them on early in the day rather than in the evening.
  • Water hanging baskets frequently through the summer months.  Because the baskets are so exposed, their soils tend to dry much faster than garden soils.  On a sunny, hot, and windy day, it may even be necessary to water the baskets several times.  Such frequent watering results in a leaching of nutrients from the soil.  As such, apply a water-soluble fertilizer regularly, or scatter a slow-release fertilizer over the soil surface.
  • Harvest herbs in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, but before the heat of the day. Herbs for culinary use should be harvested before they flower.  Also, place potted basil plants in a spot where they’ll receive partial shade since basil leaves are prone to sunburn.
  • Check for Asiatic garden beetle feeding on flowers and shrubs.  They are now stripping the foliage on some of my viburnums and certain perennials such as Joe-Pye weed.  This beetle resembles a Japanese beetle but is chestnut brown in color.  Since it feeds at night, go out with a flashlight and hand pick the beetles from plant foliage.
  • Wear eye and ear protection when operating power equipment.  I have a few scars to attest to the dangers of careless operation of such equipment.  Be sure the glasses worn are rated as safety glasses, even if they are sunglasses.

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