"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."
— Theodore Roethke
• Use a rain gauge and a houseplant soil moisture meter to monitor rainfall and soil moisture in the yard.
• It is buck rub season. Male deer rub their foreheads against the tender bark on the trunks of young trees to mark their territory and remove the velvety coating from their antlers. Wrap vulnerable tree trunks with protective soft metal or plastic fencing.
• Remind family members to routinely check for ticks if they have spent time outdoors.
• Hardy bulb planting time is approaching. Shop in stores or catalogs for daffodils, crocus, tulips and other hardy bulbs so they will be on hand for planting next month.
• Keep an eye out for nests of irritable ground bees in areas of the yard that have not been disturbed all summer.
This last month of summer has been a dry time the last few years. There are lower water levels in the reservoirs, and rain events are rare.
Remember that officials do not recognize “horticultural drought,” which usually happens well before the public announcement of an official drought. We need to water our landscape plants long before formal drought alerts happen. Yet, we need to avoid wasting water. Those of us who have wells are acutely conscious of drawing down on the available water in the underground aquifers that we share with neighbors.
To avoid dragging a hose around the yard, group containerized and chronically thirsty plants together near a hose faucet. Mulch all bare soil all season. Replace turfgrass areas with groundcover plants where possible. Do not water during the hottest part of the day — up to 60 percent of the moisture can be lost by evaporation.
Fall water saving
So now it is fall. If rain is scarce:
• Mow grass to 2½ to 3 inches tall; if it starts to turn brown, allow it to stay dormant.
• Say goodbye to annual flower plants early; they’ll die soon anyway.
• Move fall planted containers into the shade so they need water less often.
• Do not use sprinklers. Aim a handheld hose directly onto the soil or set up drip or soaker hose irrigation
• Focus watering on trees and shrubs planted this year.
• Control runoff of water from your property.
• Renew thin mulch over soil to improve its water holding capacity.
Good news for residents who are interested in learning more about the life and care of trees. There will be a TreeVitalize Program nearby in Swarthmore this month.
Classes will be held on Mondays, Sept. 17 and 24 and Oct. 1. Sessions run from 6 to 9:15 p.m.
Learn about tree biology, identification, pruning, root care, planting and urban stresses. Sponsored by DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Penn State Extension and PHS.
For more information, call 215-988-1698.
Whether you have an expansive lawn or you have managed to minimize your lawn with use of planted beds, trees and lower-maintenance groundcover plants, your turfgrass areas need attention after a long summer of heat stress and soil compaction from mowing.
Core aerating does a great job of breaking up the soil and loosening thatch that may have accumulated around grass roots. Go over the area several times. I recall advice I got on my first try at aerating: “Just wreck the lawn!” Allow the cores of soil that aerating pulls up to lie on the soil and disintegrate in the rain. Meanwhile, oxygen can get into the holes to energize the microbes and worms that live in soil and produce nutrients for plants.
While the lawn may look like a wreck for a while, do not worry. It will recover beautifully.
To reduce the cost of renting an aerator, consider sharing the rental time and cost with a neighbor.
For more than 20 years, local garden writer and lecturer Liz Ball has offered helpful information and advice to homeowners on enjoying and caring for their yards and the plants that grow there in her Yardening column. Direct your Yardening questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.