Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eco-Friendly Tips for the Summer Landscape

I thought this great scarecrow that my friends Jim and Glennie Duke made was a fitting illustration for my first day of summer post.

Jim and Glennie also created the cute scarecrow couple in my post about Scarecrows and Other Natural Bird Control.

For Summer tips, I've chosen some from The University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center e-newsletter and added links to some of my previous articles on the subjects.

The entire Extension Center Newsletter can be downloaded here, in pdf format.

Tips for Summer Landscape Care
• Follow proper mowing techniques to help your lawn through the dog days of summer.

• For crabgrass and other summer weeds, try eco-friendly options for weed control or try some Zen weeding.

• Mid-August through mid-October is the best time to start new lawns and renovate or overseed existing lawns. Maryland Extension recommends a turf-type tall fescue cultivar at a rate of 4 lbs. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. of area for overseeding, or 8 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for new lawns. If your lawn area contains more than 50% weeds, consider a total lawn renovation. Newly seeded turf must be watered regularly. (HG 102) . Click here to learn more about Selecting Turfgrass. This post on the University of California website will allow you to find more detailed information on each species: Information about Turfgrass Species.

• Keep newly planted trees or shrubs well watered through dry weather this summer. Thoroughly soak the root ball every few days. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch is helpful. Keep mulch away from the trunk or stem.

• Attract beneficial insects to your landscape by planting a wide variety of flowering annuals and perennials that will bloom over the entire growing season. Good choices are plants in the following families: daisy (marigolds, daises, asters, mums), carrot (dill, fennel, anise, yarrow, parsley) and mint (all mints and thymes).

• Slugs are found on all types of flowering plants. Feeding damage ranges from just a few holes to the entire plant stripped of its foliage in a few nights. Slime trails are a definitive sign of slug activity. Trap with shallow pans of yeast added to water or beer, then discard. Diatomaceous earth, sharp sand or ground crab and oyster shell can also be applied around plants as physical barriers.

• Control weeds by laying down entire sections of newspaper covered with straw or last fall’s mulched leaves.

• Cut back herbs through the summer to keep plants bushy and productive. Essential oils are most concentrated right before bloom. Don’t fertilize herbs as it encourages succulent growth and dilutes essential oils.

• It’s time to begin thinking of fall vegetables. Plant broccoli and cauliflower seed in containers the 3rd to 4th week in June for transplanting into the ground mid July through mid August.

Earthworms are a sign of healthy soil and are normally seen in the greatest numbers in fall and spring. Adding organic matter in the form of composted leaves, manure, grass clippings, etc. will improve soil structure and attract earthworms.

• Select shredded pine bark or hardwood mulches, not wood chips, for use around your home to minimize the possibility of attracting termites. Avoid any mulches that contain chunks of wood.

• Summer is snake mating season, their most active time of year. Snakes are beneficial creatures and should not be harmed. The most likely encountered large snake is the Black Rat Snake. It can grow to be about 5 feet long and is found in both rural and suburban areas.

• Rabbits can be a destructive nuisance in flower and vegetable gardens, feeding on young and tender plants. They can be excluded with a low, 2 ft. high fence that is secured to the ground. You can also repel them with commercial repellents, bloodmeal, or by sprinkling hot pepper flakes around plants. Or, you can just accept them for the great organic weed control that they provide.

• Prevent deer from feeding on garden and landscape plants, by applying a repellent, such as “Deer-Away”, “Liquid Fence”, “Deer-Off”, “Hinder” or “Ro-Pel” to vulnerable plants. Polywire fencing connected to an inexpensive, solar-powered charger can successfully exclude groundhogs and deer.

• As the summer progresses and temperatures rise and rainfall decreases, cool season lawns usually become dormant. Dormancy is a normal plant response causing them to stop growing and turn brown. Established lawns will not die and watering is not recommended. Newly seeded or newly sodded areas will still need watering.

• Late crops of beans, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, and cucumbers can be direct sown through the end of July.

• Bare soil is very prone to erosion from summer thunder storms. Prevent this by covering the soil with mulch, groundcovers, or turf.

Mosquitoes are always a summer time nuisance at any outside activity. Reduce mosquito populations by eliminating standing water. Change bird bath water frequently, and empty buckets, lids, garden furniture and toys. The Asian tiger mosquito requires very little water for breeding. Back yard ponds stocked with fish or moving water (fountains or filters) should not contribute to a mosquito problem. However, to be certain, B.t. dunks can bin the pond for mosquito control.

• August is frequently dry. Water deeply by allowing water to soak the soil directly underneath and around newly planted trees and shrubs. Check the depth of water penetration into the soil by digging a small hole after watering. Hard-crusted mulch will repel water and needs to be broken up with a rake or hoe to help the rain and irrigation water to penetrate the soil.

• Late August through September is usually a good time to transplant, divide and plant perennials such as daylily, liriope, and Echinacea. Be sure to keep them well watered during dry periods. If hot, dry conditions persist wait to divide your perennials.

• Do not fertilize shade trees, fruit trees or shrubs in late summer. Fertilization in August is very likely to stimulate new growth at a time when plants are beginning to enter dormancy and could result in excessive winter damage.

• Many kinds of interesting invertebrates live in a compost pile including manure worms, centipedes, millipedes, pill bugs, and pseudoscorpions. They are part of the composting ecosystem and should be appreciated, not feared. Do not attempt to spray or otherwise kill these beneficial critters.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds continue to visit flowers and nectar feeders. Keep nectar feeders clean and change nectar solution frequently during hot weather to prevent spoiling.


  1. I was interested to learn about different species of grass to identify what is growing well so I can get more seed, but the article linked was for California. Please reference a link to species that grow well in this region.

  2. Hi Judy. The document about lawns for Virginia was linked from the post mentioned in the first paragraph about Proper Mowing Techniques. The page on the University of California website was linked for more detailed information. I have added the Selecting Turfgrass link from this post, as well.


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