Mike's Weather Garden early summer updates

By: Mike Breunling
By: Mike Breunling

   Here we are at the first of July...time surely is passing quickly, or perhaps just seems to be.

Weather conditions were certainly quite variable again this spring, including the wet but

somewhat cool start to the season, and the rather dry and warm end.  Certainly of note

is the relative lack of severe weather.  As I mentioned last night, the National Weather Service

office in Green Bay has reporting no occurrences of severe weather in their area of forecast

and warning jurisdiction during the months of May and June.  This is the first time in the last 30

years such has happened.  The Green Bay NWS office has weather responsibility for all counties

in the WSAW broadcast area, except for Price, Taylor, Clark, Juneau, and Adams. 

   But with the lack of severe weather has also come a trend toward less rain that developed

during June.  Most locales in central and northern Wisconsin have received below-average

rainfall for the month, and more mainly dry weather is expected for the early part of July.  So

it is from here that we begin our early summer installment of Mike's Weather Garden notes.

(Just in case you are wondering, I have a B.S. in Horticulture from Michigan State University,

and practiced landscape design ( mostly in the Dayton, OH area) for nearly a decade).

   Obviously all that we do in terms of our yards and gardens revolves around water.  As

you probably know most everything that grows outside in this area requires the equivalent

of about an inch of (rain) water per week.  And if (like me) your yard does not have an in-ground

irrigation system, then the effort must come from us to keep everything wet.  But there are some

ways to help minimize the amount of time spent in watering.

   First, for the lawn, planting beds, as well as trees and shrubs try to do the watering during the early

morning or early evening--times other than the middle of the day.  Doing so will reduce the amount of

evaporative loss allowing more of the water to get into the soil.  Also, choose the type of sprinkler that

will most effectively provide the highest amount of water to the needed area.  For lawns both the oscillating

as well as pulse-types will get the job done, with the pulse-type a bit less prone to drifting when there is

more wind.  Soaker hoses can also be used for lawn areas, as well as along the planting beds around

the house.  Also, it is a good idea to measure the amount of water provided, and even a well made

plastic rain gauge will do the job--just set it out in the area being watered, and check it from time to

time.  It is best to provide more infrequent but deep waterings than to water more often but only put

a bit each time--and this generally applies to the lawn as well as flower and shrubbery beds.

   Any recently planted trees and shrubs need to be watered as well during dry periods at least

as much as the lawn and flower beds.  For individual trees and shrubs, it is best to set a hose

near the base of the plant, and let the water run at a slow to moderate trickle.  For trees, let the

water running for up to 1/2 hour, and for shrubs up to around 15 minutes.

   To help keep the ground moist after rain or watering, it is essential to maintain a quality mulch

to a depth of 2-3".  The kind of mulch (chips, shredded, etc.) is not as important as to be sure the

mulch is already cured (meaning the mulch material won't undergo any decomposition, which

can actually pull nitrogen out of the ground).  Also install mulch in a ring around the bases of all

trees planted in the lawn.  This will help keep the root area moist, as well as minimize the potential

of "mower blight" or trunk damage from mowers and other equipment.

   The height at which you maintain your lawn will also help with the water management.  In general,

it is best to mow to a depth of 2 1/2-3" during the summer.  This is based on the fact that the longer

the grass is above ground, the deeper the roots will penetrate below.  A deeper root system will

enable the grass plants to take-in water from a larger area, and be able to better withstand periods

of dry weather.  There are also improvements being made in fertilizers, such that some of the products

are formulated to become activated when more moisture is available, while at the same time not

buning the lawn when it is dry.

   This is also the time to be trimming all spring flowering shrubs and trees, because by doing so

now you will ensure the best flower bud set for next year.  Any trimming done later in the summer or

fall will likely reduce the number of blossoms you will have next year.  It is best to trim summer-flowering

shrubs (such as potentilla) either late in the fall or early in the spring, becuase the flower buds for

the current season are produce on the current-year's growth.  If you will be pruning plants from a

number of different families (such as lilacs, viburnums, spirea, etc.) it is always best to have a small

container of alcohol solution available to dip the pruning clippers or shears to minimize the spread of

insects and diseases from one to another.

  These are just a few ideas I use to keep things going and growing this time of year.

   If you have any other questions, please feel free to let me know!


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