Summer is a Great Time to Plant

Leif’s article for the Northfield News last week answered one of the questions that we have been getting alot of lately – “Can we plant right now?” Read on…

During the heat of midsummer we are asked quite often if it is still all right to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. The short answer is yes!

The longer answer is that the plants you place in your landscape during hot weather need the same things we humans need to be comfortable and prosper in the heat. First and foremost is adequate hydration. When we are active during hot weather we are frequently reminded to keep drinking water to replace fluids lost through perspiration. Plants need the same thing. Enough water available, but not so much that the soil stays super saturated and waterlogged for days and weeks on end.

We also need proper nutrition, and so do your midsummer plantings. We humans need to eat frequently, but we are most healthy when we do so in moderation. So too with plants. Several moderate applications of your fertilizer of choice over the course of the growing season is better and safer than applying a lot at one time. Too much fertilizer at one time can damage or even kill the plant.

On realty hot days most of us really appreciate good air. Generally speaking, good air is air with some movement to keep things fresh. Plants also benefit from good air, especially in the soil. Ideal soil for plant growth has millions of small air spaces between soil particles. This allows for good levels of oxygen in the soil, which keeps roots healthy, and allows proper drainage of excess water. When air spaces in soil disappear due to compaction, or if the air spaces are continually filled with water due to poor drainage and over-watering, oxygen levels in the soil become very low. Low oxygen levels in the soil cause reduced growth and are an invitation to root rot and systemic disease.

Most plants also benefit from good air movement above ground. When foliage can dry off quickly with a little air movement, there is much less chance of diseases such as mildew, mold, leaf spot, and fungus.

While some plants are quite happy in full sun, others do better in a sun/shade mix. I used to seek out the sun, but now I prefer the shade during the times of day when sunlight is most intense. Success with plantings in the landscape can be increased by placing plants where they receive the amount of sunlight most favorable for each variety. There are differences between varieties so consult a nursery professional if you’d like a little guidance.

Summertime is very often when we have time to be out doing planting projects in our landscapes. You can go ahead with these projects even in the heat of the summer if you just give yourself and your plants the basics for success. Enough water but not too much. Some nutrition, but not too much. Good air movement, good soil and good oxygen levels. Sunlight in the amounts preferred by each individual plant.

Have a happy and productive summer and stay cool.

Plant Spotlight: Purple Coneflowers & Ornamental Grasses. Two very staple members of the perennial family – very low maintenance and with spectacular beauty. In our meadow at home, we have a perennial bed with Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass planted in the middle and surrounded by Purple Coneflower (Echinacea). The grass sends out a flower head in late June/early July and they shimmer above the coneflowers. The purple coneflowers are a long blooming perennial – showing blossoms mid to late summer. We leave the coneflowers standing till mid-November letting the birds feast on the seeds and just enjoying the different look once the flowers have past. The grass will stay until spring. One of the best features of ornamental grass is the winter interest. In early winter when the hoar frost sets on the blades of the grass & plumes, it sends out a magical appearance to the landscape. The grass will bend over with the snowfalls and once the snow has stopped – will pop back up to sway with the winter winds.