Summer is always an exciting time for gardeners. As the air and soil warm, plants will grow at their peak outdoors and thrive during this time of year. Gardeners and farmers around the world look forward to every warm growing season.
But the summer of 2021 is truly special. As the world returns to normal, all of us are eagerly anticipating getting outside and planting.
Although summer is a wonderful time to grow, it can also present its challenges to growers. Hot, dry days can lead to drought conditions. Insects and diseases can thrive in the warm weather. Pests like deer and rabbits can menace crops.
1. Check Your Irrigation System While It is On
Walk over to your timer or controller and look at the watering schedule. Make sure it is set to the shortest amount of time necessary to keep your garden or landscape healthy. During dry times, a drip system will help establish a strong root system that allows the roots to go deep down and spread out. That enables plants to become more drought tolerant. Weeds will be almost nonexistent because you will not be watering the surface. Instead, you will be directing the water to exactly where you want it — your plants’ roots.
2. Go Native, Deer-Resistant and Drought-Tolerant
When planning to garden in a new area, pick plants that are adapted to your locale, are attractive and don’t require much maintenance. Local nurseries usually have a selection of native plants. If none are available locally, you can download one of the many plant identification apps on your iPhone or Android, walk around your neighborhood or a park nearby, aim your phone’s camera at a plant and identify it.
3. Build Raised Beds
Raised-bed gardening has been around for a long time, but I still must list it in 2021 because of its many benefits. Growing flowers and vegetables in them is a great idea. A few raised-bed gardening tips will help you get even more out of your raised beds. If you line underneath the bed with quarter-inch hardware mesh, burrowing rodents should not be a problem. If you use drip irrigation, the chore of weeding will not be an issue. The tremendous popularity of DripWorks Garden Bed Kits is off the charts, with many people enjoying the benefits:
- Because the soil level is higher than the surrounding ground, gardening becomes more of a pleasure when you add compost or other fertilizers and turn it each year. You will save stress and strain on your back.
- Raised beds tend to promote good drainage. A garden free of soil compaction will mean more air for the roots.
- A geotextile lining at the bottom of the bed will keep the weeds and infiltrating roots out.
Attractive raised beds can easily be created by varying the heights within a bed or by customizing them into an “L” shape, an octagon or “U” shape. Flexible Frame it All raised bed corners will make your dream raised bed possible.
4. Improve Your Garden Soil
There are three important nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth: Use nitrogen (N) for leaf and stem growth, phosphorous (P) for roots and fruit production and potassium (K) for overall health. You should think of using only organic fertilizers on and in the soil where you are growing edibles (veggies, fruits and berries). The waste from the organic food you grow or buy at the store can be turned into compost in a compost pile or bin and used to fortify your garden next year. Coffee grounds are especially high in nutrients and can be dumped daily into a bucket. Each week, you can add water and pour it around the most nitrogen-needy plants. The grounds can also be dug into the soil around plants or lightly dug into the containers on your deck or patio.
5. Add Mycorrhizae, the Secret Ingredient
This beneficial fungus has become the go-to “secret ingredient” of many gardeners. Getting the most out of the nutrients in the soil you have is the #1 benefit of using this water-soluble microbial powder. Dusting onto the roots of new plants or adding it to the soil gives your garden a big boost. The symbiotic relationship between these powdery microbes (mycos) and the roots (rhiza) of the plants have the following dramatic effects:
- Enhanced plant efficiency in absorbing water and nutrients
- Enhanced plant growth, health and disease resistance
- Enhanced seedling growth and success when rooting cuttings.
6. Adapt to Climate Change in 2021
With the extremes of weather and the unpredictable nature we are all experiencing, gardeners need to adapt their choices of plantings and garden designs to have continued success. Think about conditions like wind, rain, heat or extreme cold when deciding what will work in your locale. If you are in a windy area, using native trees and low-growing shrubs and plants might work well as a wind break. Add a thick layer of mulch to your garden to protect against the increasingly cold and dry weather we have all been experiencing. Planting native trees such as oaks to provide cool areas in your yard will help you enjoy your property during the hot summer months.
7. Try Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is a style of gardening where the goal is to use little or no water during the driest seasons by planting only drought-resistant xeric species. These can include plants from your area and from dry climates around the world like Australia, the Middle East and South Africa. You can incorporate a rural Tuscan feel in a xeriscape containing one of the many types of lavender, olive trees, New Zealand tea trees, Mexican sage or some other naturally drought-tolerant local varieties. Incorporating large rocks, stone walls, various mulches and crushed rock pathways gives an attractive contrast to the plants in a xeric landscape. Google “xeric plant list” online for many ideas. If you want to buy online, two nurseries I highly recommend are www.anniesannuals.com and www.highcountrygardens.com.
8. Install Drip Irrigation
The point of a xeriscape is to have a sustainable landscape that requires very little supplemental water. A drip irrigation system will help establish a hardy root system by allowing the roots to go deep down into the soil for water. That helps the plants become more drought tolerant. A drip system on a timer will also save you water, which is essential this year. The mainline tubing in a drip system can be buried under mulch or under the surrounding soil, only coming above ground next to the plant. You can look at the DripWorks Gallery of Plans to find raised-bed layouts and other vegetable garden and landscape layout designs that might look like what you would like your yard to be, including a parts list for a complete system.
9. Garden with Wildflowers and Weeds: Rain scaping
Rain scaping irrigation can also help conserve our precious water resources. Rain scaping ideas include native flowers and flowering weeds, which can be very attractive and need only low maintenance. For areas where rain occurs through the summer months, rain scaping can offer an attractive alternative to xeriscaping. You can create a striking and sustainable visual effect with an assortment of variously sized conifers mixed with shade- and water-tolerant shrubs, flowers and ornamental grasses. The chief benefit of this type of landscaping is its ability to absorb rainwater slowly in deep depressions or basins. That saves precious water from running down the street into storm drains. Rain scaping will provide a prime spot for birds, butterflies, deer and other wildlife to forage and drink from. Stone walls, gravel or large rocks can help make this type of garden or landscape attractive and natural-looking.
10. Think Environmentally
A whole-systems approach to design and maintenance of your ecosystem can create a beautiful landscape. You will be landscaping in harmony with your local conditions. You will also be reducing water use, which is critical. In some counties and water districts, it is the law. Enhancing wildlife habitat and the soil’s ability to absorb water while lowering your operational costs is a huge plus for each one of us and our communities.A well-designed and maintained garden or landscape can reduce costs for all of us in the long run by consuming fewer resources.
I hope these gardening tips will remind you of some of the steps we should all be taking in our effort to become better stewards of the land. You can raise your quality of life and conserve resources while helping your land become more productive. Let us make 2021 a new beginning for all of us.