It's August. It's hot and dry, or it's hot and humid. But
pretty much everywhere... it's hot. And that means, for most of us,
it's not much fun being outdoors.
Fortunately, the "must do" list for garden and landscape lovers is
mercifully short. But that doesn't mean you can let it slide!
Let's take a look at my "dog days must do" list that will keep
your landscape looking good until those cooler days return.
Don't put it off. It's tempting to pour another cup of coffee and
look out at the great outdoors from your air-conditioned nest. But
leave it too late and when you DO step outside, the heat hits you smack
in the face and you retreat back inside.
Work in short bursts
Get out there before the sun gets up too high and take care of one or
two landscape chores, even if you only spend fifteen or twenty minutes
doing it. You can always go back out again tomorrow morning.
Weed and weed again
Leave weeds alone too long and they get a real grip on your landscape,
sucking up moisture and nutrients that should be going to your plants.
Don't try to weed every square inch in one go! Working in short
bursts, thoroughly weed one area this morning, then tomorrow you can
pick up where you left off.
As much as possible, try to pull the weeds before they have a chance to
flower and go to seed again. If you need an incentive, remind yourself
that every seed will turn into a new weed if you don't get it now!
Water the lawn... or not
As I've said many times before, for best results water deeply about
once a week rather than lightly and more frequently. And set the mower
blades to around three inches so that the slightly taller grass shades
the soil and allows the moisture to linger longer.
But if your lawn should turn brown, or if your municipality imposes
water restrictions, don't sweat it. For the most part, a brown lawn
is dormant and will resume its more attractive green hue when the fall
Trees and shrubs
Take a look at your trees and remove any dead branches. If you have
any summer flowering shrubs that are beginning to look unkempt, you can
prune them back to a better shape as soon as they've finished
Pick the dead flowers off your perennials. You can do this as you're
weeding around them if you wish, taking care of two chores at once.
Deadheading not only makes your garden look fresher and brighter, they
will also continue to flower longer because they will not go into their
seed-producing phase just yet.
Look! Up in the sky...
It's a hanging basket! Sometimes, when we're concentrating on
plants at ground level, we can forget to check on those hanging
baskets. Reach up and push your finger deep down into the soil.
You're checking to see if there is enough moisture down at the root
level, not just on the surface. If it doesn't feel moist, water them
thoroughly, but be careful not to over water to avoid rotting the
While you're at it, do the same thing with any container plants out
there on your porch or patio. Again, the best time to water is early
in the morning.
Bath time for birdies
If you have a bird bath, be sure that it has fresh water and isn't
getting green and slimy. Apart from being an unhealthy environment for
the birds, stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. At the
same time, make sure that tarps and wheelbarrows haven't collected
storm water creating a mini mosquito farm. Can you say West Nile
Virus? I thought you could!
Remember, don't be a hero! You won't win a medal for working
outside in the broiling sun until you drop. Go out early. Take a
bottle of water with you. Work in short bursts. Don't try to get
everything done in one session.
Now go back inside and enjoy your air conditioning as you survey your
landscape with a sense of real accomplishment. And remember the words
of Scarlett O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day!"
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit