In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Drip irrigation and mulch will save on water bills and help your landscape and garden thrive in summer heat.

Southern Summer Gardening Tips

During the cool, rainy days of spring, almost every southerner with a pulse contracts gardening fever. Then this thing called summer arrives. The blazing inferno of June, July, August, and even early September can turn a garden into toast in no time. The garden is abandoned for an easier hobby like fishing. Gardening is put on hold until fall when the fever strikes again.

This scene happens too often, but it's not inevitable. I have been the proprietor of such a plot in the past (all human foibles are confessable as long as they are relegated to the past). When the weather is pleasant, the temperatures moderate, and moisture in ample supply, we can get away with lots of misguided gardening techniques and practices. However, when times get tough, only those who prepared well will still be gardening. Soil preparation, nutrient additions, proper variety selection, mulching, and proper watering make the difference.

A Summer Sheet of Mulch
I learned long ago to lay down a good, surface mulch for summer. I use four sheets of newsprint covered with a few inches of leaves stockpiled from my yard and from several neighbors as well. If I get this mulch down soon after the summer weeds are sprouting, it will keep the garden weed free for the summer with little extra effort.

When it is time to set new transplants into the garden, I simply pull back the mulch, tear a hole in the paper, set them into the soil, and water them in well. They take off growing and never look back. Seeds can be planted in a similar way. Just tear a small hole in the paper, pull back a little soil, and set them on the soil surface. Then cover them with a little compost, water them, and stand back!

Be Water Wise
To get the most out of your watering dollars, irrigate deeply and infrequently. A good soaking followed by a period of drying out is much better for plants than frequent, shallow wetting.

Sprinkling the foliage encourages diseases to proliferate and wastes water to evaporation. Drip irrigation puts the water where you need it, right on the soil. Invest in drip irrigation for your landscape and garden, and it will pay you back over the years to come.

During these months of intense heat, most gardening must be done in the early morning hours when it is still cool. Don't forget to drink lots of water. Far too many people have failed to heed this advice and suffered from dehydration while working outdoors in the summer heat. And remember: If you get the garden prepared, planted, and mulched properly, your summer tasks will be much easier.

So do some preparation, planning, and mulching. Make your garden a summer showplace rather than a weedy war zone. Then grab a glass of iced tea and enjoy those cool, morning hours outdoors.


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