After living in the Pacific Northwest for the last four years and improving my green thumb, I know that summer can be a very challenging time for Sammamish gardeners. Lush spring rains feed our plants from March to June, but then suddenly, the taps turn off. As July and August approach, the sun bakes our lawns and gardens, often drying them out for weeks on end without a drop to drink.
As we enter this dry season, there are things that you can do now to ensure your garden stays lush and fruitful.
Check your watering system
Since it has been quite rainy during the spring season, you might have forgotten to check on your irrigation system. Now is the time to take note of sprinkler heads for any that are broken or clogged. Sometimes the heads might have been buried below the soil. It is also a good idea to check pipes or fittings for breaks. Adjusting the radius and arc of the water spray would help reduce wastage.
Often, it is simply easier to just use a hose to water your plants because this is a more targeted approach to ensure the right amount of water for each plant. Having a lightweight, flexible hose will help you maneuver in tight spaces.
Adhere to your plants’ shade requirements
It is very important to considering a plant’s sun or shade requirement before planting them in certain places. As we move into July, the sun is more intense and if a plant that is meant for shade gets exposed to the full sun, it gets roasted. Vice versa, with a sun-hungry plant stuck in shade, you will get fewer blooms. Keep an eye on the newer plants because they can still be moved if you notice they are not doing so well. Once established, the plants become more resilient to the weather and temperatures. The tags for each plant would specify how many hours of sun they need to thrive.
- Full sun – 6 hours of direct sun per day
- Partial sun – between 4 to 6 hours of sun per day
- Partial shade – between 2 to 4 hours of sun per day
- Shade – less than an hour of sun or even just dappled shade
An even more astute gardener would know the difference between morning sun and afternoon sun. In Sammamish, some partial shade plants seem to tolerate full sun if they are watered often because the most intense sun exposure lasts for only a couple of months here.
Countering garden critters and diseases
Some common problems in the garden include slugs that chew away the fresh new leaves of your dahlia bulbs, rabbits that attack your shiny new sprouts, deer helping themselves to your roses and moles digging holes in your lawn.
Various homemade and commercial repellents can help to a certain extent to keep the critters at bay. For me, putting a pinch of cayenne pepper on plants has sometimes worked. Of course, any product must be reapplied after heavy rain.
In addition to the critters, certain common diseases tend to attack plants and weaken them, including azalea lace bug, blight, powdery mildew and rose black spot. Prevention is key to reducing the spread among your garden. Some care can be taken to inspect a plant before bringing it home from the nursery, watering at the roots to prevent black spot and powdery mildew, and spraying a fungicide at the first indication of disease to nip the problem in the bud.
Many plants like calendula, alyssum and chives will reseed profusely if you do not deadhead them (clip away the spent blooms). Either clip, or leave them to share with your neighbors and friends next season.
It is best to remove all dead flowers, branches and leaves so that the plant’s energy will be directed towards creating new growth. Sometimes plants are given a cutting to reduce overgrowth and train a growing pattern. With overgrowth, the inner branches would not receive light and start to dry up.
Having a bouquet of cut flowers on your kitchen table has a hidden benefit. Some plants, such as roses, tend to produce more blooms as you pinch some off. Due to a plant’s tendency to produce seed, cutting off a bloom tells the plant to produce more to set seed.
By watering, keeping critters at bay, pruning and moving plants that are struggling, you will be on your way to creating that lush garden, even if dry conditions make it tough to do so. We are blessed with sunshine and long days in the Pacific Northwest during the summer months. A rigorous approach towards your garden will give your plants the chance to enjoy this season like the rest of us do.
Triveni Remany has lived in Sammamish for more than 4 years. She has an IT background and moved here from Vancouver, Canada. She loves to spend time in the garden.