Prepare the garden now to take the heat

Prepare the garden now to take the heat
Any bare soil around the landscape should have a layer of bark spread throughout.

Garden Girl Nicole HackettCLAYTON, CA — The promise of a hot, dry summer has garden and landscape lovers taking early steps to ensure a happy, successful growing season.

Mulching the ground around landscape shrubs, roses, ornamental trees and perennials is one step to helping your landscape stay healthy. Mulch with a product that contains fir bark and at least 15 percent chicken manure. This type of mulch will help loosen hard soil, improve water penetration and keep the soil surface cool.

Spread the mulch around the drip line of the plant or shrub. The drip line is the area beneath the canopy of the plant’s foliage. Spreading two inches of mulch under landscape shrubs, roses and ornamentals will make a huge difference in your plants’ performance.

Any bare soil around the landscape should have a layer of bark spread throughout. Micro, black, brown, shredded – whatever appeals to you. All bark is good for the bare soil and will keep the soil from cracking. Apply thick enough so it impedes weed growth.

Those who love their lawns also have a few lawn chores now. First, assess your irrigation. Turn on the sprinkler system and watch were the water droplets fall. Also take note how high the water vapor rises above the lawn. Knowing where the water goes when the system is on is the best way to see potential problems. Make sure the sprinklers water the area uniformly.

When setting up a timer, divide water times for better absorption. This will allow for deeper water penetration. Water before dawn to give time for proper absorption before the heat of the sun.

Lawn aeration is especially important this spring. Removing compacted plugs of soil allows fertilizer and water to penetrate better. Once the lawn is aerated, apply a thin layer of premium soil condition. Look for a product that includes both chicken manure and mushroom compost.

Once you have spread the soil conditioner, apply lawn food. Consider going organic when feeding your lawn this year, because it has all the best nutrients and minerals for a healthy lawn.

What organic lawn food does not have is tons of nitrogen. Because nitrogen promotes rapid plant growth, the lawn grows faster and demands more water.

Organic lawn food satisfies all the demands of the lawn with a manageable dose of nitrogen. It provides a healthier looking lawn with slower growth.

Another tip for a happier lawn during dry summers is to let the lawn grow. Taller blades of grass shadow the soil beneath to help conserve moisture and shade the lawn’s roots. Mow every other week or set the mower at a higher level. Keep your lawn 3-4 inches high.

Continue fertilizing garden shrubs and flowers as the weather warms. Plants that are not stressed will be stronger to fend off the summer heat.

Those irrigating with drip systems will have to use a water-soluble fertilizer. Through the spring, feed with water-soluble 16-16-16 for overall health and a blooming formula to initiate flower. Blooming formulas should read 2-10-10, or 3-20-20. The first number of the formula represents growth, and the last two numbers represent flower/root promotion and pest/disease tolerance.

When the summer is at its peak, apply fish emulsion to flowers and landscape plants. Fish emulsion formulas should read 4-1-1 or close. It is an excellent way to keep plants healthy without encouraging too much growth.

With proper care, we can ensure our landscapes continue to stay happy through our hot, summer season.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at