By mid-June, the spring gardens have either slowed or have finished providing us with all those great colorful flowers, from daffodils to peonies to iris. The same goes for many of our flowering shrubs and trees. Our lawns, with all the rain, are for the most part actively growing and green. But there are some lawns that are beginning to show signs of slowing down for summer.
Soon, we’ll be settling into a new lawn care rhythm, as mowing will become a weekly chore and not every third or fourth day. Flower beds evolve from vigorous growth and bloom, and settle down to foliage making energy for next year. Flowering trees and shrubs also will be producing next year’s energy, yet trees and shrubs send their energy in a couple of directions. Reserves are moved into the root system to be stored and to allow for seasonal root system expansion. Being woody, compared with herbaceous perennials, food generated by the foliage also is directed into stems and branches to create next season’s flowers and foliage. Not to leave the lawn out of this process, that grass does most of the future storage later this fall when the weather cools and rains come back.
What other kinds of rhythms begin to happen depends on what is growing in the home landscape. One of those may be the vegetable garden. Early cool-season crops are about over – lettuce, radish, kale, cabbage – so the rhythm shifts to the successive plantings of our summer garden. Eventually, you’ll have a continuing harvest rhythm of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, snap beans and those vegetables you have tried for the first time, maybe colorful Swiss chard. Regular watering may be done to provide consistent harvest, but it also promotes a potential supply of newly emerging weeds, so another routine will be light tillage or weeding.
For the perennial bed, a weekly walk and inspection can reveal seed head formation if timely deadheading was not completed. The energy going into the seed head will be better utilized by creating the flower initials in the crowns and tubers of perennials for next year. That same weekly inspection may show us the need to be doing a bit of weed control there, as well. While we believe the perennial bed to be weed-free, there always is some annual grasses (foxtails come to mind) sneaking up through the daylily or iris foliage. Dandelion seed will float through the air and end up at the base of perennials, as well. Get them now while they are just a seedling, and they will not become that long-term problem in the center of your perennial plants that cannot be removed later.
I know there are many more “summer rhythms” going on as our landscapes are remarkably diverse, I just touched on some of the more common aspects.
If you are having trouble finding the right rhythm for working in your yard, try your ear buds and what every kind of music you are into. Music and gardening are both very satisfying and go together well.
If you are having challenges in the yard, our University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners are standing by via email to assist you. Email them in Kendall County at email@example.com, in Kane County at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in DuPage County at email@example.com
• Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. This column originates on his blog, http://go.illinois.edu/overthegardenfence.