Help Your Garden Recover from Tough Summer

High Temperatures & Low Rainfall in the NE Were Big Stressors: 

It has been one of the hottest summers on record this year and precipitation has not kept up with the heat. The combination of high temperatures and low rainfall are very stressful to ecosystems, lawns and gardens will be feeling the aftermath for some time.

Many transplants and new plantings suffered with the heat, even if they were irrigated. Plants are not so different form people; they are stressed when temperatures reach extremes that are not the norm. The added stress of irregular water doubles problems in the garden. Many lawns also are “burnt” and brown and though they will recover, they will not do so completely. Folks with irrigation systems tend to run the systems every other day which is ideal for weeds. While last year we saw a big upsurge in clover which is actually beneficial to grass when it’s not edging it out, this year many lawns were overrun by crabgrass which thrives in hot conditions particularly in lawns that are being watered every other day.

This fall is the time to repair the damage done by heat extremes. Many trees, shrubs and perennials will be putting out new roots and storing energy for the spring to come. Make sure they get deep regular watering. Every other week for an hour or more should be good depending on the topography of your property. Weed heavily and if mulching, make sure you apply a little organic nitrogen fertilizer to the mulch so that the mulch does not pull nutrients from the soil. Prune out dead wood and deadhead flowers unless you want the plants to go to seed. Plants will put energy they would normally store into their seeds, so removing the flowers (Where seeds develop) allows the plant to store more energy for itself.

Weed, aerate, and overseed your lawn. Remove weeds by hand, or spray them with vinegar. Or even spot spray with an herbicide. Do not apply a granular broadcast weed killer however. Though easier, this will kill anything alive in your soil that helps the grass digest nutrients. Once the weeds are dead and/or removed, fill that space by core aerating the soil and overseeding. Core aeration involves pulling plugs of soil out of the ground which not only greatly enhances seed germination, but also increases flow of gasses between the soil and the air, and allows for greater water absorption.

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