When it comes to Nebraska weather, we all tend to forget how quickly our feelings can switch. Why, only six months ago many of us complained about how cold it was outside. Many pleaded for Mother Nature to give us a bit of warm weather to remind us spring would soon return. Only two years ago, we were entering the beginnings of the Drought of 2012, the soil was parched, plants were withering, and many lawns were turning brown. Without moisture, the grass was going dormant in the heat.
This spring and early summer has been enjoyable with rainfall that is more normal and at times cooler temperatures. There isn’t anything quite like summer in Nebraska. The old adage “If you don’t like the weather – wait five minutes – it’ll change” certainly comes to mind. But every year Mother Nature turns up the heat and sends us more normal summer weather, and that normal weather will drive many of us into the cool respite of air conditioned houses and outside searching for shade to avoid the heat.
July and August for many is a time for vacations, celebrating the Fourth, and enjoying the sweet taste of vegetables from our vegetable gardens. For those of us in the nursery industry we spend our time helping clients try to keep their landscapes and gardens looking their best. For some that could mean dealing with disease and insects, others it could mean assistance with caring for their plants, and for others installing new plantings. Yes, I did say planting.
While the summer is not a time to “plant and forget,” it can be a great time to plant. Many have extra time and possibly some help from kids out of school or are simply spending more time at home caring for their kids over the summer. While some days bring terrible heat, most summer mornings or early evenings usually bring moderation to the heat making it actually enjoyable to be out working in our landscapes and gardens.
When we talk about planting in the summer, it is with some understanding and care. Simply put, people who plant in the summer usually tend to care for their plants better than those who wait for fall. The nicer weather in spring encourages people to believe that Mother Nature will take care of new plants without our help. We see our plants standing strong and tall and mistakenly believe that we will not have to do much because the plants are looking great. However, with our Nebraska summer we need to make sure we are caring for our plants, whether we planted them last fall, this spring, or this summer. Keep an eye on any plant younger than about 12 months, make sure you water them about once or twice a week and you should do fine.
For those who are itching to add a few plants or simply have finally found time to work in the landscape, summer planting can be rewarding and offer great success with proper care. A young plant, whether it is planted in the cool spring or the hot summer, simply needs a bit of assistance to make sure it survives until it can set its roots and begin caring for itself. How long this takes will depend on the plant. Check with your local nursery professional for specific care instructions for your specific plantings.
When it comes to caring for your older plants while they should not need as much supervision, do not worry if they are not looking as good as they did in the spring. A bit of timely watering, maybe some trimming to shape the plant, and a bit of mulch to help hold the moisture around the root system of all your plants can do wonders to help them through the summer. With a bit of care, plants showing stress in the heat should perk right back up and yes, even thrive, in our challenging summers.
Now when we talk to clients about summer plant care the first thing we mention is to try to walk the landscape at least once a week even in the heat. Check for weeds, look for insect or disease issues, and generally try to catch problems before they can get out of hand in the heat. A bit of work in the heat could solve a problem with minimal effort versus waiting until the weather is cooler but now the problems have grown and it might take lots of work to get things back in shape. Many of our clients usually do this walk around when they mow their lawns.
As you walk your landscape keep an eye out for insects eating on foliage, red spider on evergreens, bagworms, turf damage from grubs or webworms, and fungal issues on roses, turf, and other plants. Most problems, if noticed before too much damage occurs or pests are allowed to get out of control, can be controlled with timely treatment. While many chemicals are labeled for plants and pests, always follow label directions and consult a nursery professional with questions and to get help picking the right control for your situation.
As long as you are able to check on your plants once or twice a week through the summer and add a bit of water as needed, and possibly deal with a problem before it gets out of hand, you should be able to keep your plants growing well and looking good even in the heat of summer.
Overall Mother Nature can be our best friend or worst enemy. Which one we believe she is all depends on what she brings us each day, and I for one have said a few choice words about her already this year. However, if we are there to care for our plants here and there, the summer time in Nebraska can be an enjoyable and often fulfilling time in the landscape.
Remember these 5 tips:
• Keep watching for insects and disease in your turf and plants. The added stress of summer heat can make any problems they cause affect your plants even worse.
• Check your turf for grub issues. Consider applying preventative treatments if you have had grub issues in the past. Otherwise, keep an eye out for damage then treat ASAP.
• Watch your watering! It is just as easy to over water your plants as it is to under water. Best results are to water at least a day or two apart and apply the water slowly and have it sink deep into the soil to encourage plants to establish vigorous root systems. Aim to water for longer duration less frequently for best results.
• Dead head old blooms as needed to encourage plants to re-bloom faster or to give a cleaner appearance on plants done blooming for the season.
• Keep an eye out for fungus. With higher humidity this time of year, we are seeing fungal issues. Use preventatives if you are worried as prevention takes half the material and effort as attempting to cure will take.
Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office. http://www.campbellsnursery.com.