I've been thinking about the observations I've been making in my yard and other yards I've visited this year. It occurs to me that maybe the gardening tricks I've been using are something I take for granted, assuming everyone knows them. I've been doing a little pruning all summer for various reasons. For instance, years ago, Mimi told me that she prefers to be able to see throughout the entire yard, which is full of trees. So, we started cutting off any branches below eye level and any downward branches growing off a main branch that might block our vision. As the younger trees gain height, we are clearing the path for a better view and more light to pass through. It makes the whole yard look neater, and pruning up to eye height fits into my lighting regime.
When I'm pruning branches, I look at each one and try to picture where it will be in five years. Thinking this way helps me decide what stays and what goes. If a branch is headed downwards or towards a path that won't be high enough, it has to go. I believe energy can be better used elsewhere. I use different tools for pruning, like a chainsaw for big branches, long-handled loppers for medium-sized branches, and small hand pruners for cleaning up suckers and tiny branches that block sunlight and airflow. I make my cuts as close to the base of the branch or trunk as possible to create a smooth, almost unnoticeable scar. Leaving nubs is unsightly and can lead to new branching that needs frequent cleaning up.
I use pruning paint on big wounds, as open wounds on trees can let insects and diseases enter. Smaller wounds usually callous over in a couple of weeks. Another aspect of tree health I focus on is the tips. If I see no central growing point that looks dominant, I identify the strongest branch headed upward and help it become the main point of the tree. I don't like trees with centers that have branches that might split in the future, so I remove any funny-looking branches that seem to be headed that way.
During my tree maintenance, I also look for potential insect or fungus problems and give a little Espoma Holly Tone around the drip line as a treat for the tree. This provides nutrients to help heal scars faster and leads to a burst of growth in the right places. A trick I learned from a landscape architect, Randy Graves, is that thin and weak-looking trees like Little Gem Magnolias can be lopped off at the top, resulting in healthier growth.
For my Knockout roses and Drift Roses, I use motorized shears to cut them just below the height of the lowest spent blooms during summer pruning. This encourages more branching and heavier re-blooming. Timing the pruning correctly allows the roses to be in full bloom after about forty-five days.
As for fertilization, I'm almost done with my final round. I recently used Milorganite, a slow-release organic fertilizer, on the lawn, but the smell is strong. I also applied Ironite to my new Zoysia lawn, which gives it that beautiful blue-green color that Mimi loves. August will be my final fertilization for most plants, except for some winterizer before the lawn goes dormant in September. The pre-emergence is essential twice a year in September and February to prevent winter and summer weeds from germinating.
To keep everything looking its best, I deadhead plants that continuously bloom and thin the foliage of bedding plants to improve airflow and reduce potential fungal issues. Slug control has been necessary this year, and I've found success with slug pellets or meal, but these are not pet-friendly. Diatomaceous earth or green sand are safer alternatives. Pine bark mulch is our favorite choice for fall festivities, as it provides a clean and neat look.
With the scorching summer approaching, it's best to finish these gardening tasks soon before the unbearable heat arrives.
Additionally, I stay on top of my fire ant population since they can cause harm and encourage aphid growth. Lastly, I'm excited to share stories from my recent trip to Costa Rica, where my family had a wonderful time, and there was a surprise engagement! But more on that later.
I hope these gardening tips will help you prepare for the hottest months ahead and enjoy Mississippi's finest season afterward.