Quenching June's Thirst

I so love June in the garden. That special green of young plants, whether they are annuals or perennials, is a visual delight. The rains of April and all the work of May are starting to show in the garden.

Gardens are always work and although that work may be joy, there is no need to do unnecessary tasks. Watering comes to mind immediately. Most water used in the summer is for lawns and gardens. But it is certainly possible to use less water and still have a beautiful landscape. Add compost, well-chopped leaves, or well-rotted manure each year. You will soon see the benefits. The texture of the soil will improve. We know this from personal experience as the soil on our property could have been used for making clay pots when we first moved here! Now you can grab a handful of dark friable soil, very satisfying I must say!

When you do need to water, where do you want the water to go? Too many gardeners end up watering their roofs and sidewalks instead of the roots of their plants and lawns. Soaker hoses are wonderful. The water is not wasted and it gets right where you and the plants want it, but you must be sure to soak the soil. It should be wet at least four inches down. Remember the roots grow where the water goes. If you water to a shallow depth, your plants will grow roots that are shallow, that is, near the soil surface. They will easily dry out and suffer from both lack of water and from heat stress. You will get stressed too because you will have to water again and again!

Enjoy the rain when it occurs. The water is both free and unchlorinated. Then you can go outside right after the rain stops and pull out the newly emerging weeds. Just don’t step on the soil if possible because you don’t want to compress the soil or to harm your plants.

The garden after a thunderstorm can be beautiful, as it has just received a supply of inorganic nitrogen from the atmosphere. The lightning of the thunderstorm converts the inert nitrogen in the air into nitrates, which dissolve in the rainwater. This contributes to the growth of green leaves and healthy plants.

The less exposed the soil is, the less water loss. Plan to plant your garden densely. It will be lush and welcoming to all who see it. It will also hold water.

Cutting the lawn? Don’t waste the grass you cut! Mulch the clippings. The clippings will decompose and feed the existing grass. If you watch closely you will even see that earthworms pick up this tiny bits of green and carry them down into the soil!

The true lover of gardens pays attention. Take a look. Are the plants looking well? Are they choked by weeds? Did you plant water-loving plants over the roots of your trees? Does a plant need pinching? Pruning? What is chewing on the leaves? This all sounds formidable but actually all gardening is working with nature to produce something pleasing to the senses. Take a little time each day to look in detail at part of the garden. Take a pair of pruning shears, a basket or a camera with you. You can look, gather or help nature along. It’s worth every minute!

Forever Young Magazine - June 2005