By: Lisa Briggs | July 3rd, 2019
The brightest of the stars in the Big Dog constellation is Sirius, the Dog Star. In the mid-summer, it can be seen rising and setting with the sun. This conjunction caused the ancients to believe that Sirius’ heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this stretch of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, the Dog Days, which begin a week from tomorrow on July 12th and run through August 20th.
It doesn’t seem as though it will ever happen, but these hot days often usher in drier weather, so remember to check your soil for moisture! July rainstorms are notoriously fickle. If a period of dry weather does set in, any tree or shrub planted in the last two years will need its roots soaked once a week. Perennial and annual borders will benefit from watering as well. If dry weather continues, it’s also a good idea to root-water even established trees and shrubs, especially Beech, Japanese Maples, and Redbuds. Drought stress can weaken a plant’s ability to fight off disease and pests and may affect winter hardiness.
June was Perennial Gardening Month, but July has its own charm. If your garden looking a bit tired, you can add some flower power with Garden Phlox, Liatris and Coneflowers. You can continue to plant perennials all summer as long as you are paying attention to their watering needs. Newly planted flora will need some babysitting if the temperatures start to soar. So if your personal gardening energy is still in planting mode, go ahead and insert some new colors and textures.
Shear perennials after their first flush of blooms to encourage a second flowering. Coreopsis, Veronica, and Salvias all respond beautifully to this haircut method of pruning. You don’t have to prune stem by stem. Grab a handful of stems and cut the whole bunch at once. They will grow out and look natural in a week or so. And for those perennials that re-seed a bit too vigorously, this is a must-do gardening chore, unless you relish weeding out unwanted seedlings later this summer or next spring.
While you’re deadheading, shear back your Japanese Spirea and Potentilla that have finished flowering. Continue to dead-head Roses to encourage re-blooming. And there is still time to prune Arborvitae, Yews, and Junipers now that the new growth is darkening in color. Be prudent though and leave enough of this year’s growth to develop buds for next year.
We haven’t any heard reports of Japanese Beetles yet, but we’re sure they’ll be here soon! Watch for them on Roses, Hibiscus and other flowering shrubs. When they do arrive, you can pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. Or try an insecticidal spray, like Eight. These contact sprays work the best if the product actually touches the insects. Insecticidal soap will not be effective. Use traps only as a last resort in a remote area of your yard. They will attract as many beetles as they catch. And you’ll have to clean out the trap. Yickers!