Jun 30, 2019
by Roger Raiche David McCrory, Planet Horticulture
Heat. Now that real heat has set in, often with vengeance, it is clear that summer has arrived. This is visible in many ways, some subtle, some profound. Profuse growth of most plants not on irrigation will slow down, many plants start shedding excess foliage, and most spring annuals and grasses are going to seed and shutting down.
Water. The dryness and heat of the summer months is an excellent time to evaluate whether your irrigation system is accomplishing its goals. Are your choice or featured plantings looking too sad? A sound irrigation system should provide enough water to keep plants looking healthy and attractive, and most systems can be altered to deliver more or less to give you a positive result without wasting water. Drip irrigation and smart controllers are making watering more efficient than ever.
Vacations. Most folks will take some sort of vacation away from their homes during the summer. This is really where a good irrigation system pays off in leaving your plant worries behind. If you don’t have an automatic system, you can always have friends or neighbors’ sub for you – but most veggies, summer annuals, and potted plants simply will not tolerate prolonged lack of water.
New Plants. Because of the demands of summer and the higher water needs of new plants, make sure you are irrigated. Even one day of high heat can kill or damage a plant that does not have an established root system. The advantage to summer planting is that the heat will generally help the plants to actively start growing.
Every month is a good time to evaluate where the gaps are in your planting scheme. Do you see plants in your neighborhood that you wished you had? Take pictures and get an ID (there are lots of online plant ID sites and even phone apps), or ask a gardening friend, and then make a list of things you might want to add long term.
California buckwheats. A great group of native shrubs and sub-shrubs for summer flowering, loved by many pollinators, are the CA buckwheats in the genus Eriogonum. These are not the plants that produce the seed called buckwheat but are in the same family. The genus Eriogonum has diversified extensively in Western North America, and there over 250 species. Most grow in specialized habitats, but there are a handful of dependable garden-worthy species available in nurseries – primarily native plant nurseries, that you might want to try to fit in. All need full sun and do best grown mostly dry once established. Red buckwheat, Eriogonum grande rubescens, is an excellent filler for front of borders, as is the bright yellow sulphur buckwheat, E. umbellatum ‘Shasta Sulphur’. St. Katherine’s lace, E. giganteum, makes a 3-4’ mound of gray foliage and large umbels of creamy flowers that make great dried flower arrangements later.
Do you know? Sonoma Co. has 9 species or varieties of native buckwheats (Eriogonum), though 1 is naturalized. From the coastal bluffs (E. latifolium), to nearly every large rock outcrop (E. nudum and E. luteolum), to the very rare Cedars’ buckwheat (E. cedrorum), the county is rich in diversity.
Fire. Fire is a genuine threat to our homes and lives. Be assiduous in clearing out tall grasses and weeds, thinning out overgrown shrubs, pruning trees away from structures and removing any vegetation that is not important to your landscape. There are many guidelines offered by public agencies on best landscaping practices to improve your chances in the event of wildfires.
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