Hi friends, Megan here. It's July and I keep wondering what to do in the garden? What to do about the holes in the leaves? What to do about those over grown shrubs? What to do about watering?
This blog should help answer some of these "What to do" questions and we'll start with the holes in your plants' leaves. First of all, assess the problem... Are the holes really noticeable? Is it your favorite plant? Is it the centerpiece of the garden? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then personally I would leave it alone. Whatever is eating your plant is food for something else. If you poison/kill the bug, you risk poisoning/killing the bird or animal that eats it. On a small scale this may not show big effects but if you and all your neighbors and the whole city and the whole region are killing every bug in their yards then we will end up with no birds and no small animals and that creates a larger problem for the whole food chain. I have gotten off on a tangent here, what I mean is that not every "problem" needs to be eradicated. If it is your favorite plant or the centerpiece or all the leaves are gone over night, then by all means, bring us a sample and we will help you eliminate the enemy. But if you can tolerate a little damage, your song birds will thank you.
Next up, What to do about those over grown plants? Prune them. It is okay to prune this time of year, just not as drastically as you would during the winter. This time of year we recommend pruning no more than 1/3 of the total mass from a plant. Even if the shrub is way out of bounds this will still help reduce the size until you can do a major pruning in the winter. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has an excellent article about pruning techniques. Click here to read that article. Here is my abbreviated pruning technique. Make sure your pruners are sharp and clean, always cut the branches leaving a 45degree angle cut. Remove dead wood first. Next, remove crossing branches. You don't need to remove both branches. I take each branch in a hand and gently shake each in turn; this shows me what is connected to the branch in question and what I will be removing. Then I can decide which is better to remove. Then I step back and see how things look, if I am pruning a tree then I may remove more "weight" in the center so that you can see the trunk more. If I am pruning a shrub then I may just move on to the next step which is shaping up. This is just looking at the overall shape and trimming the outside of the plant to even things up or give it a flat top again. To sum it up, dead wood, crossing branches, and shaping up are the three must do's when pruning. There are other subtle nuances to pruning but those come with time and experience. Also, please remember that plant will continue to grow. If you make a cut that removes more than you expected the plant will grow and fill in that space over time.
Now we arrive at What to do about watering? This is a question we get a lot and in many forms. How often should I water? How many gallons does each plant need? What do you mean that new plant can't go without water for 10 days while I am on vacation? The thing is there is no specific measurement of water for each plant, just like there is no specific measurement for how much water you need compared to how much I need. During the hottest days of summer a good rule of thumb is "If you are thirsty, so are your plants". They will need water regularly, especially for that first year or two in the ground while they get established. Annuals will need water every day and multiple times a day when we get into the real heat of summer. But every plant is different. The best advice I can give you is check them every day and water deeply. If you water deeply they probably won't need water every day but it is still good to check. When you water, turn the hose on a trickle, just a slow gentle trickle and place the hose near the base of the plant being watered. Let it run for 20mins or so, then check to see if the root ball and a bit of the surrounding ground looks saturated. If yes, move the hose to the next plant. If no, you may need to move the hose to another spot if it is a large root ball or just leave it there a bit longer. Watering deeply will encourage the roots to go deeper in search of water. The plant will become better established with deep roots rather than shallow roots and will have a better survival rate.
One last note on watering. If you think a plant has had plenty of water but still looks wilted, wait. The best example of this is hydrangea. They will wilt in the heat of the day and perk back up over night. So if you believe that they have had plenty of water, then wait until morning and check them again. If the plant is still wilted in the morning then it is time to water or check under the mulch.
There you have it, a few answers for What to do. Let us know if you have any What to do's that need to be answered.