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The winter doldrums are officially over. Spring is in the latter stages with bustles of blooms and bees. Summer is on the horizon, which means beach vacations, cold lemonades, and lazy porch sittings. But, before all the leisure activity can commence, you need to step up being the garden guardian. Summer is lovely, but it can also bring a host of problems–heat, bugs, drought– to your well-maintained landscape.

How do you juggle being the leisure lover of summer with the diligent gardener of the growing season? Below you’ll find some easy steps on how to enjoy lazy days without garden guilt.

Smart Water

As the summer heat sets in, it’s only logical that you’ll need to step up the frequency of watering. But, don’t just run for the hose and spray with abandon at the first sign of drought.
Follow these easy steps for the optimal watering experience:

Double up: Plants that only need one watering a week in the spring, will need more as summer begins. A great way to check when a plant needs water is to stick your finger in the surrounding soil. If it’s dry more than an inch, then break out the watering can. And make sure to water slowly and deeply!

Established means less: Plants you’ve had for several years have adapted to the seasons and are typically veterans of your growing climate. Older fruit trees or established drought tolerant bushes like Knock Out Roses or Sage will not need the same watering regiment as a young plant. They can sometimes go up to a week without watering.

Water early: Plants will get the most out of moisture if you water well early in the day. Roots that sit in water overnight can develop rot if done on a regular basis.

Judicious misting: It’s OK to lightly mist the plant’s leaves early in the day when dew is still on the foliage. Never spray water on the leaves in the heat of the day, since it can scald the plant. And never spray the foliage late in the day since it can encourage disease.

Consider a drip system: If you’re going on multiple vacations, you might want to invest in a drip irrigation system. They water the plant’s roots optimally with feeder lines at the soil. Plus, you can put the system on a timer, giving you a worry free holiday.

Weed, Mulch, Prune (a Little)

The bane of every gardener are those pernicious weeds that never seem to go away. It’s best to pick weeds as they emerge. Better yet, consider laying down landscape fabric or some simple cardboard around your plants. Of course, this is not the best for ascetic purposes, but that’s where a nice mulch comes in. Mulch keeps moisture in, suffocates weeds, and it looks gorgeous in your landscaped beds.

Pruning is a trickier proposition once the heat hits. For flowering shrubs that last in numerous growing seasons, it’s best to prune back after the initial bloom in early spring. Never cut back by more than a third to avoid damaging the shrubs when summer arrives.
For fruit trees, only cut back new growth in the spring. In the summer, it’s best only to remove diseased and damaged wood from the fruit tree.

Be a Pest to the Pests

Mid to late spring is the best time to launch bug patrol. But, like watering, you need to plan pest eradication carefully. Here’s some hints on how to make bugs fear you from three yards over…

Morning or evening: It’s best to treat for pests in the morning or evening. Spraying the plant in the middle of the day may kill some bugs, but it could also scald your plant.

Know your bugs: While there are many bad guys in the bug world, there are also numerous beneficial bugs that can protect your garden. Ladybugs and lacewings eat aphids by the hundreds. If you want that summer vacation, but you’re afraid to leave your property, consider planting beneficial attractant plants near your perennial beds. Red clover and yarrow are great for attracting both ladybugs and lacewings.s

Diatomaceous earth: This is one of the best bug preventatives out there. Made from fossilized algae, DE shreds the outer shell of bugs and causes them to dehydrate and die. Sprinkle some around the base of your plant that may be attacked by ants that deliver aphids to blossoms. Be careful not to dust in the blossoms since these can harm bees.