Seasonal Garden Tips

Information on garden care by month/season….SUMMER

“What do all the yellow leaves mean?”

ANSWER…Yellow leaves on trees and shrubs usually indicate stress, the same way if you don’t sleep enough/do an all-nighter your hair can start falling out.  It does not mean you are going to die, it’s a warning- same with plants.  Broadleaf evergreens like Holly will always have some internal yellow leaves they drop, so again don’t panic, but check.  When the yellow leaves are numerous, start in one area and increase, then worry.  The most likely problem is watering- either too little or too much!  Check the ground moisture. (Soaking plants everyday is not a good idea unless drought conditions exist).

Spring is the time to apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for leaf growth, then apply mulch.  I use shredded hardwood about 2″ deep for a new garden and only 1″ subsequently.  Mulch is useful in the D.C. climate to prevent evaporation, retain moisture, reduce weed establishment, and supply organic nutrients/texture.  It also gives a garden a fresh, natural look.  You might think “I will put down 3″ and get triple benefits”.  What you will do is attract termites!  They eat it like candy.

Winter is the time to prepare plants for their dormant period, but it is not yours, to be preparing for Spring.  Broadleaf evergreens need protection from  harsh Winter wind and freezing.  Evergreens are more actively growing roots so it is recommended to water thoroughly, soaking the ground, before frost.  The moisture also keeps the leaves moist, reducing wind burn.  This is the time to plan your garden and contact a landscape architect to begin the design process.  Having all necessary drawings, contracts finalized, allows you to hit the ground running in Spring.  The earlier you plant, roots get more established to withstand the long hot Summer.

November is the last call in the fall for work in your garden.  With all the leaves coming down it is opportunity to think of their environmentally beneficial use as natural mulch or compost instead of trash for landfills.  Same goes for lawn clippings, layer a mix together to form compost.   If you have a large property  wooded to the rear or periphery let a layer of leaves stay.  If you have a moderate garden with a large group or hedge of evergreens, rake them under this not prominently visible area.  Several inches of leaves will soon get matted down with rain, compressed by snow into a decomposed layer of nutrients and organic matter to replenish your soil texture.  In the Spring spread it by raking.  If you prefer a more controlled look of packaged mulch I prefer Shredded Hardwood.  It has the most naturalistic characteristics.  Large size Pine Bark for instance doesn’t look right in a mixed hardwood forest, diverse garden and doesn’t decompose to  provide the other’s benefits.  It is usually locally produced so it has the compatible pH and nutrient balance.  Its size, texture allows it to compact into a protective layer that by Spring starts decomposing as the leaves do.   Do not go overboard with more than 2” or so  on first-time mulching.  DC area has termites and they eat mulch!  1” is sufficient  for subsequent applications.