Volume 6, August 2016
Drought Special Edition
Now that the weather forecasters have officially declared this the hottest summer on record, we gardeners are coping in various creative ways with the heat and drought.  Working in the cooler parts of the day, following shade around the property, staying well hydrated with water and slathering on the sunscreen is one part of the picture.  

Our plants are used to at least 1" of water per week in New England.  Usually this falls from the sky, or we plan to supplement with automated irrigation and or hand watering.  Water bans and restrictions now make watering your garden much more difficult.

We at PBOG can help - our spray trucks are outfitted with 200 gallon tanks that can be filled with water and brought to your yard!  To help stressed trees, shrubs and perennials recover, we recommend the addition of Stress X, a kelp/seaweed solution full of micronutrients.  

In addition, we have people who can hand water containers or designated plants.  We recommend our spike waterers and watering wands for this job.  The spike waterer can be attached to a garden hose and left running while other nearby tasks are accomplished, usually 15-20 minutes per plant.  And the watering wand is like a shower head that can be aimed at the roots of recently-planted trees and shrubs.

There is a silver lining to every cloud:  there are zero slugs this season!  Even weeds are not as rambunctious.  We notice when pruning that there is less growth to prune off this season.

But - please bring on some real rain soon!

Link to US Drought Monitor site.
Plants that Hold up to Heat
Right now is a great time to observe what plants can thrive with a minimum of water!  Take a look at my lists below and see if some of these might fit into your own garden.

Potentilla 'Abbotswood'

Hemerocallis 'Bringing Joy'

Seven Sons Flower
Bush clover
St. Johnswort
Low gro sumac
Lamb's ear
Blazing Star
Balloon Flower

My Lawn is Brown - Now What?
Put the lawn mower away
when the lawn is brown!
An organic lawn will naturally go dormant during the summer, especially if no water falls on it  during a drought.  Brown lawns are everywhere right now!  Is it dead, you may wonder.

No, it's not dead, just taking a rest.  It takes energy, particularly water and air, to stay green.  To save itself, blades of grass turn brown in the heat.  When cooler fall temperatures return, the grass will gradually green up again.

Here are some tips to help your lawn regenerate:
  1. Do not mow now if browned out and dormant
  2. Plan on a late summer/early fall seeding plus fertilization to help the lawn recover
  3. Mow high in fall, at 3" and leave the clippings as a natural fertilizer
Watering Tip:  Water in the morning to prevent disease.  

Most important - mow right!  Mow at a height of 3 1/2" to shade soil.  Keep mower blades sharp.   Blades should be sharpened after 8 hours of use.  Dull blades cause the grass to shred, thus reducing its water retention ability.   

Now is the time to plan your late summer lawn renovation.  If you were thinking last spring that you'd like to improve your lawn, the time is almost here to do this type of work.  Please contact Tyler Ewen, our Organic Lawn Care Manager, to arrange an analysis of your lawn and to move forward with a plan for its fall organic care.

Lawn grasses prefer cool weather to put down good root systems.  So we work with natural cycles and wait until late August/early September to begin core aerating, topdressing, overseeding and fertilizing.  We aim to finish this type of work by September 30 so that the new grass seed can get established before leaves fall and temperatures drop in October.
Fall Planting?  Why Not?
Fall Planting, Why Not?
During August we are actively planning our fall planting season and perhaps beginning some fall plantings late in the month if temperatures cool down.  Paul Marean, our staff designer and project manager, is available to meet with you now to finalize designs and budgets.

At this time I open up the bulb catalogues and assemble our bulb orders for planting in October and November.  I've already ordered some fall blooming crocus and colchicums that we'll be planting later this month.  These wonderful drought-tolerant and critter-proof bulbs add much-needed color to the autumn garden.  Please let Priscilla know if you have special requests for bulbs.
Priscilla's July Trip to China
This special trip took me to high altitudes, 15,000 feet, in western China's Sichuan Province and eastern Tibet.  The alpine wildflower display was spectacular and could be viewed along roadsides, in yak pastures, and in national parks.  One particular site had small pools of rainwater among rocks with an amazing diversity of plant life!  It was fun to draw on my knowledge of plant families and to recognize new plants that way, then begin to learn the Asian species names.

Here are a few of my favorite flowers (from left to right):

Tibetian blue poppy
Yellow primrose
Dwarf rhododendron with allium
Regal lily
Pink lacecap hydrangea

Priscilla's To-Do List for August
Watch for butterflies
  • Keep on weeding
  • Deadhead annuals and perennials to promote rebloom
  • Watch for pollinators and butterflies in the garden
  • Shear back lavender, hyssop and dianthus after bloom
  • Cut down any browned out perennials to the base (astilbes may be vulnerable this year)
  • Water following your town's guidelines, aiming to provide 1" per week to the garden if possible, especially woody plants
  • Refresh containers with new annuals and herbs
  • Give annuals and vegetables a pick-me-up dose of fish fertilizer
  • Prune vegetative growth (long canes or stems) of roses and wisteria
  • Finish shrub pruning
  • Prune birch trees as sap isn't running during hot weather
  • Divide and reset bearded iris
  • Plan lawn renovation for later in month
  • Order bulbs for fall planting
  • Collect and save seeds as they turn brown or black
Don't forget, we can help with your watering woes.  Don't come home from vacation to stressed plants. 

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