Prep Your Yard for a Hot Summer

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When the summer heats up, our yards can take hit. Weston Miller, OSU Extension Service Urban Horticulturist, stopped by to share tips to help us keep our lawn and landscape looking good.

It’s been a dry spring here in Western Oregon and it’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer. Are you worried about keeping your lawn and landscape looking good? Learn how to get you garden ready to beat the heat with timely tips from Oregon State University’s Extension Service.

Maintaining trees and shrubs

Well-established plants are generally able to survive periods of drought with little to no water, even during a hot summer. Most common trees and shrubs planted in our area are adapted to a Mediterranean climate with wet winters and dry summers. If your plants are in favorable conditions, they will likely survive the summer with no water. During periods of hot weather, water plants deeply if they look stressed. If your plants have been watered in summers past, keep them well watered this summer, too.

Lawn care during the summer

If you want to keep your lawn looking lush and green this summer, you will need to apply at least 1 inch of water each week. Put a rain gauge (or empty tuna can) out to determine how long it takes to apply 1/4 to 1/3 inch of water. Apply water for that long three to four times per week to total at least 1 inch per week. Keep watering until October when the rains begin.

If you are looking to save on your water bill, lawns in Western Oregon can survive the summer drought by going dormant if little or no water is applied. The grass is still alive at the roots, but the top turns brown. Wait until the mid-September and then over seed the lawn at that time. The new seed will help rejuvenate the lawn and fill in bare spots. Regardless of whether you water the lawn this summer, apply fertilizer in October to kick it into gear for 2016.

To plant or not to plant?

Newly established plants will likely die if not given regular water during the summer. If you want to put in new plants this spring, you can get them off to a good start with some specialized techniques:

· Soak the roots of your new plants by dunking them in a bucket of water until all of the air bubbles out. You can also use a dilute mixture of soluble fertilizer for this step.

· Prepare the soil well by digging in compost. Spread 3 to 4 inches of compost over the planting area and dig this into the soil as deeply as possible.

· In this amended soil, dig a planting hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball of the plant. Fill the hole with water and let it drain out. Fill it again with water and then install the plant into the mud. Wet roots go into wet soil.

If you installed new plants this spring, make sure that they get a good drink once or twice a week. Apply at least 1 inch of water per week and more when it is hot. Soaker hoses work well to water deeply. Dig down by the roots of the plants to make sure the water is soaking deeply into the soil where the roots are growing. If you are planning any long vacations or are otherwise not able to water plants this summer, don’t plant anything new in May and June.

Containers need special attention

Containers are a great way to grow annual flowers, vegetables, and herbs. However, containers dry out quickly when it is hot and will need daily watering to keep the plants alive. Set up a drip system connected to a timer so that your containers get the water they need if you are unable to water them by hand. Also, since so much water is used in containers, you’ll need to add more fertilizer than for plants growing in soil.

When in doubt, water

If your garden and landscape plants are looking stressed this spring into summer, spend the time to give them a good watering. Look for droopy leaves, scorched leaves, and leaf loss. If you catch these symptoms early on and apply water, you can likely prevent major long-term damage to you plants.