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Tend to Summer Landscape Chores

The summer heat makes it hard to work outside for long. But some things in your landscape need to be addressed.

Probably the most critical detail now is the effect of this summer's drought. Many plants are suffering from the extended hot, dry conditions we've had.

Allowing plants to get to the wilting point before watering may cause irreversible damage to some varieties, especially shallow-rooted annuals and perennials.

If water restrictions allow, give these plants a drink at night or early morning to avoid the hottest part of the day and the greatest amount of evaporation.

Don't forget to water your most prized trees as well. It's easy to replace a $3 annual flower, but nearly impossible to restore a 50-year-old oak.

While walking around your landscape, continue to deadhead flowers of annuals and perennials. This will keep them from going to seed in some cases and help them trigger more blooms for the rest of the summer.

Check your roses carefully for signs of spider mite damage. Mites love the hot, dry weather we've been having and will take every opportunity to invade your roses. Keep spraying throughout the growing season with a combination fungicide, insecticide and miticide.

When you need to apply chemicals, do it either very early or very late in the day to avoid burn on the foliage from hot temperatures.

If weeds have been a problem in the flower beds, hand removal may be the best bet. It's hard to kill mature weeds with chemicals. Spot treatments with a nonselective herbicide such as Roundup or Finale may be possible if you're careful not to contact desirable plants.

Adding a new layer of mulch can go a long way, too, toward controlling unwanted weeds.

Take a close look at vigorously growing shrubs such as privet, hollies and Ligustrum. They may need a trim to keep them inbounds and away from your windows. Light pruning of the fast-growing shoots won't harm the plant. And it will help give it a more compact shape. Save heavy pruning, though, for late winter.

Remember to lightly fertilize annual flowers and roses each month. Water the fertilizer in thoroughly after applying to get the benefits into the plants' root zone. If you use liquid fertilizer, read the directions carefully. And don't apply it during the heat of the day.

Begin now to plan your fall landscape changes. Many catalogs require you to order now for a fall shipment. Look at the success of your existing landscape and ask yourself if you're happy with the arrangement, spacing and color.

Draw out what changes you'll make and begin to check on the availability of plants for this fall. Fall is the ideal time to plant most of our landscape plants.

When you've finished scouting and maintaining your landscape, kick off your shoes in the comfort of your air-conditioning. You'll feel better knowing your landscape is healthy and ready to take on another dog day in Georgia.

(Bob Westerfield is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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