Posts Tagged Summertime

Beat the Heat (and help your plants do the same)

It is hot out there!  With record highs throughout the US, it’s a good time to start considering ways to beat the heat – and help your plants do the same.

Here are some ideas which will help you and your plants cool down:

Idea 1: Run a sprinkler or mister by the area in which you are relaxing.  The water will help mist you and your plants – cooling you both in the process.  My favorite way to do this is to string a hammock between two trees – so you have a shady lounging area – and then put a portable sprinkler out to give your grass and trees a nice drink.

Hint – The best spot to put your sprinkler is in a spot where the wind is blowing toward you.

Idea 2: Hand water your plants.  This may seem counter-intuitive.  Hand watering requires work outdoors – which equals you being in the direct line of fire of the sun.

Here’s how I hand water: I turn on the water, then grab the top of the hose and pull.  This means that water will slosh on my legs and feet.  It’s inevitable and nice and cool.  When I get the hose to its destination, I use my thumb as a pressure valve.  This is extremely inefficient, I know.  But the point in this exercise is not to conserve water – it’s to cool you and your plants.  The spray will shoot off randomly, hitting you and plants you didn’t even intend to water.

Hint – Wear flip-flops and clothes you don’t mind getting wet.

Idea 3: Relive your childhood.  In my world, this means two things – running through sprinklers (always a great pastime) and slip ‘n slides.  You’re an adult – but why does that mean you can’t have fun sliding down a wet, plastic surface on your lawn?  It doesn’t.

Hint – Remove rocks and pebbles from your path.

Those are my favorite ways to cool my plants and I off during these crazy summer months.  Enjoy!

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Time to Get Outside

The first day of summer is June 21st!  It may be hard to believe on these chilly, cloudy days, but the heat is coming.  I’m not sure what you do to prepare for hot, sunny days.  But, here’s a checklist for last-minute summertime preparations that I go through:

1. Clean the pool.  I don’t have a heated pool and there is no way I’m getting in when it’s cloudy outside, so I generally cover it until this time of year.  But, no matter how well I cover my pool, it still needs cleaning.  It’s time to either find a pool person, or get updated on your DIY tasks.

2. Prep the deck chairs, pull out the awning and generally make the deck spiffy.  There’s nothing better than sitting under the shady deck with a cold drink and good book in hand.  Except perhaps spending the night stargazing by the pool with all the lights off.

3. Speaking of stargazing – make sure your lights are all in good repair and your neighbors didn’t install a light that points right at your face in the middle of the night.  Warm summer nights make us want to stay outside.  To do this, we need light, but not too much light.  Make sure your neighbors didn’t install a new light that points straight into your backyard.  My cousins had this happened and they almost went blind each time they went outside to enjoy the night air.

A simple solution to this problem is to install some kind of shielding, like a tree, a wall or a large bush.  It’s a good idea to talk with a landscaper to find out which option best fits your yard and lifestyle.

4. Dig out any weeds growing between cracks.  Those weeds really sneak up on you.  It’s time to look at your yard with a critical eye.  Do you have weeds growing out of your foundation?  Between the bricks or cement in your pathways?  In any bare soil occupying your yard?  Yank them up if you can, or try grabbing a spade or trowel and digging them up.

5. Break out the barbecue!  I love barbecues.  I just had one and I mean to have many, many more this summer. Now is the time to clean up your barbecue and prepare it for a summertime of charcoally deliciousness.

If you’re really into barbecuing, realize there is a possibility of making this a year-round activity in Southern Calfornia.  It may get chilly, but it doesn’t usually get so cold that you can’t cook some food out doors. 

To enable your barbecuing needs, you can always get a barbecue installed permanently.  Another option for outdoor cooking is outdoor fireplace or a firepit

6. Clean up your garden.  This includes pulling any dead plants, any last weeds and installing any last-minute plants. 

Here’s to a summer filled with fun!

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Add Some Color to your Yard

It’s around this time of year when yards start dying.  How do you keep your yard colorful over summertime?

Here are some ideas:

1. Plant drought-tolerant or local plants.

2. Install sprinklers!  Seriously, unless you just love standing in the hot sun with a hose, get some sprinklers installed. You may have to hire a professional landscaper, but the cost is worth if you like your lawn and flowers to stay alive.

3. Repaint your house or paint something colorful on your garden wall.

  4. Install pretty hardscaping. Think brick, slate or cement that is paintable. It’s amazing the amount of pretty color you can add to your yard with hardscapes.

  5. If you already have hardscaping and you’re not satisfied with the color combination, a cool idea is to take out the mortar in between stones and install fake grass. It’s a colorful option for hardscaping.

 6. Put up bird feeders or a bird house.  It’s a quick way to both add pretty birds to your yard, and get the lawn fertilized at the same time.

7. Plant air plants in any unused nooks and crannies around your yard.

8. Put out pretty pots with bright flowers.  Just remember, you’ll have to keep them well-watered.

9. Install pretty tiles periodically in your garden wall, path or – if you’re really into it – on your house.

10. Get crazy!  I saw a “bed” (a bed frame) filled with flowers the other day in someone’s yard.  While that’s not really my style, let your yard express your inner artist. 

Here’s to a bright and beautiful summer.

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Keeping Your Lawn Alive

Driving down the street by my Southern California home, I constantly see  dried out lawns that will not survive the summer.  I also see a ton of preventable water runoff, which, during this drought, can get you a ticket.

So, how to achieve that illusive middle ground – the green summer lawn without the extra water runoff? 

It’s a pretty tricky proposition.  Here are some tips and tricks to keeping your lawn looking decent throughout the year.

– Before installing your lawn and sprinkler system, find out what your options are from your landscaper.  You could ensure the grading of your property promotes water conservation, make sure the sprinkler system you install has rain sensors, low pressure valves, etc.  A sprinkler system which waters the roots of your plants often reduces the water needed and is usually a more effective method of watering.  You can also discuss what time of the day (usually the wee morning hours) are best to water your lawn.

– Ensure your lawn and other plants are properly mulched.  This can be done with leaves and grass clippings.   The mulch will protect the soil from direct and drying sunlight. 

– Don’t overfertilize. It’s nice to have the vibrant green grass, but most fertilizers require you water them into the soil. So, it’s okay to let your lawn “dull” a little and save on the water.

– Set the mower at two inches.  This will reduce water use during hot weather.

– Water the turf one a week with about 2.5 centimeters of water.   This may not stop your grass from turning a little brown, but it should ensure it lives to see another fall.

Check out this link for helpful hints for maintaining your lawn.

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Trees and the Heat

As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s been pretty darn hot. Lawns are drying up, sprinkler water is partially evaporating before hitting the ground and air conditioners are going full blast.

So, what does this mean for your trees?

It can be hard to tell how your tree is doing when it comes to moisture. Cheaper moisture meters aren’t very accurate and there’s no way to tell by just looking at the soil if it’s too dry. The best way to ensure your tree is doing ok moisture-wise (without waiting for the leaves to wilt) is to dig up some of the soil with a trowel or use a metal rod. You can insert the rod into the soil. If there is an unusual amount of resistance, this can indicate a lack of moisture.

Another way to ensure your tree actually receiving enough water is to water it at low pressure. Some people blast the leaves, trunk or soil for a few seconds and expect that to be sufficient. A better action is to set the hose on low and allow the water to soak the soil for a few minutes. This will allow the water to sink through the soil and get into the root system.

Finally, keep an eye out for disease or dead leaves and nip them in the bud by pruning them back. Note that summer pruning is a tricky business – you do not want to cut the tree back like you would in winter when it’s dormant. You just want to trim off the diseased or dead areas and that is literally it. So, don’t go hog-wild and hire a professional if you’re unsure about what to do.

Check out this website for awesome landscaping tips and info on summer care of your yard.

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