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Hamptons Life

Jul 22, 2019 1:02 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Watering, Weeding And Fertilzing In July

Jul 22, 2019 1:37 PM

It’s the time of the year when we’re pulling hoses, lugging watering cans and looking for that perfect sprinkler to water a spot in the garden that’s not quite a circle, not quite a square and not quite a rectangle. I had such a dilemma recently where I had to water a bed that’s about 4 feet wide and 15 feet long bordered by a parking area and lawn on the other side.

None of my collection of usual sprinklers fit the task, but I went into the barn and looked on the shelves where I keep my watering tools and, lo and behold, eureka. Sitting on the shelf was a cheap plastic sprinkler that I probably picked up in some home store that couldn’t have cost more than 10 bucks. It’s very light, has a plastic sled base and a large dial in the center that rotates among 10 or so watering patterns. There was one pattern on the dial that was going to be perfect, and sure enough it did the trick.

This is the second time an inexpensive watering tool has come in handy. Last summer I bought out a local garden center’s entire supply of a Melnor twirling sprinkler that was on an adjustable riser so the sprinkler could be set at 18 inches high to about 3 feet above the ground with a gentle circular water pattern. I think they were about $12 each; I’ve already broken two of them but the four I have left will certainly be useful in garden spots that need overhead but gentle watering in smaller areas.

Here are a few quick watering tips: If you use a water timer on your hose bib, always remember to turn the timer off. These devices are great for watering for a set period of time, but they are not reliable, positive shut-off valves. That is the device that you attach the timer to, and you should try to get into the habit of turning the hose bib, or valve, off each night. On more than one occasion I’ve set one of the timers for 20 minutes only to find it still running an hour later.

Hoses left on the lawn for several days leave yellow lines behind. You may have noticed. But when you put your hose away by coiling it or wrapping it on a hose reel or stand, make sure all the water is drained. If not and if the sun heats up the water left in the hose, the next time you turn the hose on the hot water can easily scald or kill whatever it hits.

Check your washers and couplings. I think the best washers are still the simple red rubber ones, but any washer wears out and replacing them or just making sure they actually exist on the female end of the hose coupling will eliminate leaks and loss of pressure. When making hose repairs, use quality metal fittings. The best of these will last years; the worst, the plastic ones, simply don’t hold up.

When watering plants that are in planters or beds it’s always helpful to use a wand with a breaker attached. The wands can be from 12 inches to as much as 3 feet long and some are curved at the end. The breaker is the device that’s attached at the end that turns the water flow from a stream into a sprinkle and adjusting the water pressure adjusts the strength of the output. There tend to be two types of breakers, narrow ones and wide ones. The narrow breakers provide a longer stream and better reach into the garden or planter, but the wider ones provide a more gentle and diffuse stream. You can also buy wands with hand triggers and breakers all built as one integral unit. These are handy, but when the trigger breaks or the breaker falls apart the whole device becomes useless.

My preference is to buy the parts separately, and I stay away from cheap knockoffs trying to stick to the Dramm brand name. You can buy a plastic or metal control lever or valve, the wand piece and the breaker. Then, if one part has an issue, just swap it out instead of having to buy a whole new unit. And remember a washer between the hose and the valve and another between the wand and the breaker.

Walking around your property, you’re more than likely to notice weeds and the natural impulse is to want to get rid of them. This is not the time. Herbicides, especially liquid ones, can be very tricky to use in the heat of the summer. Many weeds won’t even respond as they are not actively growing; they grow more actively in the cool seasons of the spring and the fall.

But in your walk-arounds, it’s a good idea to make mental or written notes of what weeds you have and if they are evenly distributed around the property or if they tend to be in certain areas. It’s also important to know which are annual weeds and which are perennials, especially broad leaf perennials like plantains and dandelions. Annual weeds like purslane and crabgrass are best controlled in the spring with pre-emergents, which simply kill the roots of these plants as the seeds left behind from this summer germinate in the spring.

But, if you’re like me you just can’t resist pulling out that stealthily hidden dandelion in the lawn or patch of plantain along the walkway or driveway. In my case this need-to-weed trait is genetic as I know I inherited it from my father. Nevertheless, wherever these urges originate it’s important to pull these weeds out correctly. They’ve established deep tap roots and these roots will continue to dive deeper. Pull the weed without getting the root and surprise, the weed returns.

This is also the time in the gardening season to feed your vegetables, annuals and perennials. Supplemental additions of liquid fertilizers during the season are fine but at this point in the season many plants will benefit from a granular organic side dressing. This can be done by circling plants with the fertilizer or in the case of vegetables in rows, following the same pattern and add a “side” dressing to the row.

In my landscape beds I gingerly walk through the beds with a bucket of a product like Plant-tone and using a cup I kneel down and work the fertilizer between the plants making sure not to get it on the foliage. Even organic fertilizers can burn foliage. I’m not very fastidious about how much to use and the handful per plant seems to work but the fertilizer package will give you an idea of how much to use on a square footage basis. These organic fertilizers will last about four weeks depending on how much rain or irrigation the plants get then I like to get one more application down in late August.

It’s seed collecting time, and I’m just about done harvesting columbine and Trollius seed. I was blown away by the Trollius “Golden Queen” plants that flowered this year and were grown from seed harvested in 2017. They added a remarkable glow to the garden in the late afternoon. Columbine seed can be sown as soon as it’s harvested but needs light to germinate. Trollius seed needs winter vernalization (cold) to germinate and can be planted in situ or in flats kept outdoors come fall. Both will take two years to flower. Keep growing.

Change or sharpen your mower blades. Deadhead annuals and perennials as much as you can and note those spring flowering perennials that can be divided in the early fall. I’ll be doing lots of Astilbe divisions in early September, but I need to mark them now. Keep growing.

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There are some great weeding tools on the market. I use those instead of weed killers. Long handled ones keep you from having to bend down and they work well on pulling up dandelions and other weeds.
By btdt (449), water mill on Jul 25, 19 1:31 AM