Plan Fall Tree Planting for Summer Air Conditioning
Passive cooling strategies are electricity-free ways to reduce the amount of heat entering your home. Planting deciduous trees on the south side of your home can help block sunlight in the summer but allow it through in the winter. Investigate which tree, where, now. Plant in fall or spring. According to the US Department of Energy, trees can reduce the surrounding air temperature as much as 9%F, and the air within their shade as much as 25%F. Keeping an air conditioner in full shade can increase its efficiency up to 10 percent. Two other passive solar AC options. Solar screen window-covering fabric blocks up to 90 percent of incoming solar heat without obscuring the view. Awnings can reduce solar heat gain by 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE.
Dead Head Salvia, Sage, Tithonia, Phlox
Pruning off dead flower heads encourages these flowering perennials and annuals to produce more flowers. Deadheading before seeds start to form is best. Do clip off any seed pods as soon as possible. Cut just above a node -- the junction where a leaf meets the stem.
Enjoy ... and Scope Your Garden For Change
Our mid-summer gardens are lush and full. Great time to take a leisurely walk-about and consider changes come fall. Is this hydrangea too close to its neighbor? Would the irises benefit from being divided ... then fanned out behind the 'Rozanne' geranium? Did the daylilies NOT bloom (again!) in the shade? Take pictures, make a list, tag the plants. Which ever way works for you to keep track of what you'd like to move, transplant, share -- come cool September and October.
Savor Your Basil, Oregano, Tarragon, Marjoram...
Yes, it's basil harvest time -- for as long as you can keep the plant alive. Pinch off the dead flower clusters BEFORE they set seed. Clip off leaves to use for salad, pesto, sandwiches.... For a sweet treat, carefully pull off the individual white flowers to nibble. Each is touched with nectar. Be sure to share those delicacies -- atop the pesto pasta or green salad. Clip and sprinkle other fresh herbs to enjoy at their flavor peak.
Harvest in the Cool Morning and Evening
Sometimes we get so busy (and the sun's so hot), the vegetable garden gets neglected at its most productive time. Take a few minutes in the morning and/or evening to reap the bounty. Bush and pole beans, eggplants, tomatoes, squash, and peppers will produce more and more -- as long as we remove the ripe veggies from the plants.