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New England Gardening Advice By the Month -August

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The Dog Days of Summer are here, the temps in the 80's and 90's, and the only relief is a welcome spotty thunderstorm here and there. Certainly not enough to keep the gardens thriving in the heat. Believe it or not, excessive heat can damage many plants, even tropicals that are used to being in the semi-shade of the forest floor like many smaller palms.

If you followed our advice last month, your garden is weed-free or as close to weed-free as it will get for the rest of the season! You've put down a good layer of mulch, which is now helping your plants' roots stay cool during the hottest days of the summer. In August, water is the name of the gardening game in New England.

Take Note: Water deeply and less often. Taking the garden hose out daily for 10 minutes to spray water on your plants in the garden if anything is doing more harm than good. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Let's look at the situation from the plants' perspective.

Plant roots are at a minimum, 1/2 inch below the surface, and in the case of some vegetables like tomatoes, may have roots 6-10 inches below the surface. A good soaking rain by mother nature drops about 1 inch per hour, enough to help out the top-rooted plants. That means you would have to stand over your plants for an hour with the hose just to reach down a few inches at best in the soil. If you simply spray the plants quickly and move on, the only thing you're doing is inviting mold, mildew and disease to take hold.

So what's the best way to water your garden?

Mimic mother nature and water deeply and slowly so all the water drains into the soil. An old-fashioned sprinkler is your best friend here, and you should water only once or twice a week for about 2- 3 hours (or 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches)each time. The water will soak deeply into the soil, your plants will get the water they need along with the drying out period inbetween (they need that too so their roots won't rot), and best of all, you simply turn on the sprinkler once a week (early morning is best) for a couple of hours and you're free to do other things with your day!

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