Summer Gardening Tips: When to Prune, Mulch and Plant

| August/September 1999

  • Learn from last summer's mistakes with these summer gardening tips.

After a season of drought, the water in my pond has dropped by several feet, stranding the Louisiana irises that grow around its former edge. The water lilies have become land lilies. To make up for the lack of rainfall, I have been watering the herb garden all summer. The herbs have been responding joyfully, flopping this way and that. Everything desperately needs to be cut back. Low holly hedges surrounding the herb garden are twice as wide as they should be.

As summer wanes, I see lots of steps I could have taken to prevent the current wild look. A “stitch in time” would have made all the difference, and I’d be looking out over a well-groomed garden now.

If I could do it all over again . . .

I would mulch.

When the herbs are still pushing up and I’ve finished pulling the chickweed, I can actually see the ground to apply mulch. This late in the summer, it’s hard to push sprawling catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’) or overgrown feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) out of the way to get wood chips or pine straw on the soil. Mulch would have helped ­conserve moisture and moderate soil temperature as well as unifying the plantings visually. I like to apply 2 to 3 inches of light summer mulch early in the year, but this year I never got around to it.

I would edge.

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