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Emerge from the shade and check your garden!

Malcolm Griffiths

It’s hot and humid. The best place to be is in the shade sipping on your favourite wine and smelling the roses — stop daydreaming and check out what’s needed to be done in the garden!

August is usually given to keeping weeds under control, watering as required to keep things ticking over and keeping an eye out for pest and disease problems.

This is especially important after periods of heavy rain when new growth is lush and the pests look forward to young soft growth to munch on.

Lawns should be carefully mown, but not too regularly during periods of drought as it will stress the plants; ensure the mowing height is not too low as this will certainly stress growth.

In fact, during periods of prolonged drought it is best not to go near the lawns, even heavy foot traffic will cause compaction and thus create run-off during heavy rains.

Weeds are unsightly — especially after the heavy rains of late July — and can harbour pest and diseases and, worst of all, use the soil moisture that garden plants require for growth.

Certain weeds known as ephemerals — quick growing plants which go from germinating to flower to seed in a short time — can, if left to seed, distribute new seed to surrounding areas thereby continuing the cycle and each time spreading the distribution farther afield.

The cleaner the soil the quicker infill, especially by ground cover plants which then keep the soil “cooler” by simply covering the soil surface.

Mulch is oft touted as a good material for soil coverage and weed control. It may well assist in this exercise but in my opinion, once the mulch starts to “break down”, it can pancake and create a carpet effect to the point that when it rains, moisture penetration is dramatically reduced.

Once it starts to break down into humus it thereafter becomes a growing medium for new growth especially weeds. By working the soil lightly on a weekly basis one can remove germinating weeds immediately; I would suggest the best tool for this exercise is the Dutch hoe.

When soil depth is shallow it dries out quickly during periods of drought. Never water when the hose pipe has been lying in the heat of the sun as the boiling water will burn the foliage until the water in the pipe cools.

Water around the “drip tip” of the plants as that is where the feeder roots are located.

As an aside, if the planting hole is — as it should be — large enough for new root growth to establish, water will find its way into the lower depths of the soil thus encouraging active root growth to chase after the moisture and utilise it to its fullest. When watering, it is best to literally allow water to “flood” an area perhaps twice a week as excessive water is then retained in the lower reaches of soil.

If you water sparingly every day, there’s a risk of developing surface growing root systems which could have adverse effects in times of a drought situation. Use insecticides and fungicides with care during hot dry periods as again, these can have an adverse effect on the plant, especially when roots are stressed and uptake of moisture is minimal.

Remember we are in the hurricane season therefore heavy growth should be thinned out in order to reduce damage, and if we should be in the path of another hurricane it could well be we end up having a dark and stormy night. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.