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Summer Plant Guide: Top 10 List for Summer Success

Woman planting a plant into the soil.
Learning by Leading ™ Sustainable Horticulture team Landscape Conversion in May 2018.

by Taylor Lewis, nursery manager

"Should I do it? I thought fall was the best time? But it’s so hot?"

It’s true that summer is not the best time of the year to install new plants, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t. Watch the latest Ask the Garden Gnomes video below for advice or scroll down to find some quick tips.

1. Water 

The single largest issue you’ll face, when planting in the summer, is water. Both ends of the hydration spectrum can be fatal to most plants. If the tips of your plant are wilting, limp and droopy, and the leaves seem to be fatigued, you should give it a drink.

Water plants before planting: Transplant shock can be greatly reduced if a root ball goes into the ground wet versus dry.

Frequent irrigationsMany perennials and shrubs will benefit from irrigation 2-3 times a week. Add 1-3 gallons of water at each application for establishing 1 gallon and 4 inch plants and 4-5 gallons for establishing 5 gallon plants. Larger plants should need less relative water, less frequently.

Water deeply: Imagine that you’re trying to get the very bottom of the plant wet; a dash and a sprinkle won’t cut it.

Actually check if your soil is wet: Stick your finger in the soil; moisture meters can be hit or miss and less accurate than I like to be. If soil sticks to your finger when you remove it, it’s wet enough. The best spot is in the interface between the new root ball and the soil. During the summer, the ground often “looks dry” on the surface without a mulch layer of 2-4 inches.

2. Mulch 

Applying a 2-4 inch layer of compost or bark to the top of the soil will greatly reduce the loss of surface water by shading the ground and increasing the humidity at the surface. Smaller bark “stacks” together better than large, chunky bark and allows less dehydrating, sunlight penetration.

3. Pruning the Plant

Removing some of the outer or excess foliage will reduce water needs and ease transplant shock. You can easily remove one-fourth to one-third of the plant without harming the plant.

4. Wind Caution

Be attentive during sustained wind activity. Wind can be a serious foe in the battle for water. The plants won’t need a full soaking, but a surface watering should be sufficient to keep the plant from going totally dry.

5. Planting Time 

Plant in the early morning and in the evening; avoid hot afternoon planting times. Reducing as many stressors on a plant, that can’t follow you inside chasing AC, will help make your new plants successful.

6. Planting Rings

Mounding a moat/basin around the plant can help to both hold a greater quantity of water and direct the slower penetration of water to the roots.

7. Temporary Shade

Since you won’t be using your umbrella anytime soon, you could create your own shade and give plants that are heavily exposed some extra relief.

8. Shelter in Place 

Too many times faulty irrigation systems, brand new plants, and summer vacation schedules coalesce into unfortunate scenarios. Since you’ll most likely be staying at home, there will be more chances for you to visit your plants and maybe give them names. While you’re there, check for water.

9. Organic Starter Fertilizer 

Beneficial micro-fauna will aid the plant with the uptake of water and nutrients while easing the shock of transplanting.

10. Be Willing to accept a Few Casualties 

Even if you lose 10% of your plants, think of the awesome head start the other 90% will have on next year!

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