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Dog Days of Summer

Garden maintenence when the dry, hot weather leaves you panting

We have entered those dog days of summer, the time when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises and sets with the sun, and when we traditionally see our hottest, driest days. It is a time when gardeners can slow down the pace and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Tomatoes and zucchini are ripening, we’re enjoying fresh beets and cucumbers, and the blaze of yellow sunflowers and heat-tolerant favorites such as galliardia, blanket flower, and rudbeckia are soaking up the sun.

But of course most of us can’t sit still for long, and with a bit of maintenance the gardens will stay happy and healthy through these scorching temperatures. Rain showers are spotty and cannot be counted on to provide consistent and adequate watering. This is the time when you can see the benefits of having native and drought-resistant plant varieties. Typically, plants with smaller, thicker leaves are best at water conservation. Speaking of water conservation, reportedly, about half of our nation’s water consumption is used for landscaping. We can do our part to conserve by making use of rain barrels and soaker hoses that will target the base of the plant to ensure wise watering.

Drought-stressed plants are susceptible to disease and damage from pests, so beds should have a good two to four inches of mulch in order to retain moisture when watered. If using organic mulch that has begun to break down, add another layer. When ligularia leaves are curling and the hydrangea bushes are drooping, it is a sign of a thirsty plant. Potted plants in terra cotta or clay pots and hanging baskets will need extra attention to watering.

Upcoming Gardening Events

August 19

Cornell Plantations and Six Mile Creek Vineyard Tour. Member cost: $95, Non-Member Cost: $105. Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens offers guided gardens tour with a light breakfast, lunch, and wine tasting. For more information, visit

Take a break from putting in any plants and turning the soil until the weather cools. If you haven’t kept up with weeding, take advantage of the early morning and evening cooler temperatures to do the maintenance work before undesired plants go to seed and begin to get a foothold for the next season. Deadheading can encourage another round of blooms on many plants. In addition, check pruning charts to schedule trims for woody shrubs that have finished flowering for the season. However, most of all, take to heart the old adage regarding the lazy days of summer and just head for the hammock with a stack of gardening magazines.

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