Summer’s here and mid-shore gardeners are bracing for plenty of dry hot days that can stress gardens and landscaping—and gardeners as well. The Queen Anne’s County Master Gardeners’ Bay-Wise committee, which regularly consults with homeowners about their gardening practices, has come up with 10 guidelines to help gardeners keep plants and lawns healthy, and protect often substantial investments of time, effort, and money.
Yet the ultimate reason for the Bay-Wise guidelines is protecting the Bay from further pollution. According to the University of Maryland Extension, which trains and sponsors Master Gardeners, most homes in Queen Anne’s and Kent Counties are within a half-mile of a stream or other waterway flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. What we do in our yards rapidly impacts, drains, or runs into the Bay waters. It’s important we all get it right and not rely insecticides, weed killers, and fertilizers to get us through summer.
1. Water generously in the morning. Make sure you’re aiming for the roots and not the foliage. It’s tempting to give drooping foliage a shower on extremely hot days but such showers encourage leaf mildew. Pots should be watered until it drains out the bottom. Some people prefer using a watering can over using a hose.
2. Mulch. Mulch and mulch if you haven’t already, but no more than 2 to 3 inches. This protects the roots and helps the soil to retain moisture. Plus it cuts down on weeds that steal moisture from your plants. Use whatever works for you. There are a variety of options available.
3. Move anything that’s in the wrong place. If something seems to be suffering from too much sun or too much shade, a cloudy day is a good time to rescue those tender plants and move them to where they will prosper.
4. Mow smart. Set your mower at 3 1/2 to 4 inches. Slightly longer grass blades shade the roots, conserve moisture and discourage weed growth. Remove no more than 1/3 of the grass height each time you mow. Make sure that your lawnmower blades are sharp.
5. Encourage pollinators by using native plants. They’re genetically equipped to survive the vagaries of weather and provide habitat for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. To prompt re-blooming, remove spent blooms on flowering bushes and plants.
6. Watch for invasive insects and disease. They’re destructive. Keep up your vigilance and remove or treat them. Japanese Beetles, for example are looking for lunch anywhere they can get it. Unfortunately, rose bushes seem to be their favorites. Hand removal works; then drown them in a jar of soapy water.
7. Trim off suckers and tie up your tomato plants before they get heavy and droop. This will ensure a good summer long harvest. Check the beans, squash, peppers, peas, and whatever else you have planted for problems or invaders. Daily vigilance is key.
8. Compost your plant-based kitchen scraps and yard waste. Diseased plants or foliage should go in the trash.
9. Weed like your garden depends on it.Weeds steel moisture, nourishment, and even sunlight. Weeding after a rain makes it easier on you and morning makes it more pleasant. Most of the weeds can go in the compost.
10. Be grateful. We all live within the embrace of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. We all are then stewards of the land and bear the awesome responsibility of gardening wisely. We need to minimize the use of fertilizers and other pollutants that sadly end up in the Bay.
To arrange for a Bay-Wise Master Gardener team visit to consult on your gardening practices, questions, or problems, contact Rachel Rhodes, Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener Coordinator at 410-758-0166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Master Gardener visits and advice are always free and generally, a visit to go over your yard, identify problems, and suggest solutions takes somewhere around two hours. Two links that might be helpful for you: The first, a charming visit with some young gardeners at Washington College explaining what Master Gardeners are all about http://www.washcoll.edu/live/news/10129-gardening-wisdom and for further information on the Bay-Wise Program and other environmentally sound practices, please visit www.extension.umd.edu/baywise or see us on Facebook @https://www.facebook.com/QueenAnnesCountyMasterGardeners
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