Roots and shoots: gardening checklist
It’s that time of year – time for a garden take-out checklist. How are you doing so far?
Keep planting. Fancy a harvest in September or October? Anything that has a “days to maturity” range of 90 to 100 can be sown. This could include carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, and winter squash.
Continue to weed.
The first weeds of the season will sow now. Knowing the life cycle of the plant helps in management; this is an important time to prevent more weeds from growing next season. It may seem futile, but new plantings and home gardens benefit the most from the attention.
In flower beds, plant firmly to control weeds. Planting lush and full instead of leaving plenty of space between plants suppresses weeds with less bare soil. Even if you have mulch, weeds will grow; it is not a permanent solution.
While barriers like landscaping or plastic seem like an easy fix, they’re about as effective as mulch. Barriers above ground interfere with the movement of air and water and the accumulation of organic matter. The less porosity, the worse for the soil. Lee Reich’s book, Weed-free gardening, is a useful guide to weed management that makes soil enrichment a priority.
Healthy plants come from healthy soils.
It is always a good idea to add compost and organic matter to the soil to nourish the plants and accumulate dirt. Healthy plants require fewer interventions, can survive attacks from pests and pathogens better, and require less additional care like water and nutrients. In the right place, with sufficient sunlight, the plants are quite self-sufficient.
Be aware of the carbon footprint of your landscape.
Gas-powered lawn equipment like mowers, blowers and sluggers are big polluters when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. According to one estimate, using a mower for an hour produces pollution equivalent to driving a car for 200 miles. Switching to electrical equipment and reducing the amount of mowing can make all the difference.
To reduce the frequency of mowing, replace grass with non-mowing or light-mowing eco-mix varieties. These look great as a ground cover and stop growing at a height of 3 or 4 inches.
I love the way white clover looks like a ground cover and it also adds nitrogen to the soil and the bees enjoy the flowers. These attributes make it more advantageous than a straight lawn.
Turning areas of lawn into beautiful islands for perennials and native grasses that benefit insects and wildlife can also reduce mowing. You can find the perfect plant selection in any palette as beautiful as ornamental plans, but with environmental benefits.
Try Tuberous Asclepias (butterfly grass), Echinacea purpurea (echinacea) and Pycnanthemum muticum (shortleaf mountain mint) for an attractive combination for butterflies that grows well in full sun. Butterfly grass is a milkweed, an essential plant for monarch butterflies. I like it because it is wiser than the common milkweed in a landscaped bed. Common milkweed, although fragrant and interesting, is more difficult to control.
Even if it is not about carbon emissions, the wise use of natural resources like water makes sense to adapt to our changing climate. Rain barrels to collect rainwater for plants, and using irrigation hoses, conserve water and make it available when you need it.
We have already experienced a few dry weeks followed by a two day period with as much rain as possible in a month. Rain regimes have become less reliable in the Hudson Valley due to climate change and, like most things related to global warming, will become more extreme.
New York’s Invasive Species Awareness Week ended last Saturday (June 12). Check out resources for plant identification and volunteer opportunities at the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (lhprism.org). If you have any questions about dealing with invasive plants like Japanese barberry, garlic mustard, stilts, knotweed or swallow please email me at [email protected]