A Midsummer Garden Haircut

| 8/7/2012 2:42:15 PM

Right about now – the first part of August – is a good time to give your garden a summer haircut. That's what I call the process of deep cleaning, both the ornamental beds and the vegetable and herb plantings. The results are not just aesthetically pleasing but can keep plant diseases and pests from ravaging the garden.

 haircut before 

And the summer haircut can free up space to make a late season planting of some vegetables, which stretches the growing season and saves on grocery bills come fall.

 summer haircut after 

So many uncontrollable factors ˗ rainfall, air temperature and soil temperature, soil moisture and moisture on leaves and fruit ˗ work in combination to nurture outbreaks of plant fungi, viruses, bacteria, and nematodes, but just keeping the garden clean and plants well groomed is an important way to improve the underlying conditions organically. (Note to beginning gardeners, no two years are ever alike, so don't worry if you seem never to learn "the secret" to a perfect garden.)

I got a reminder of this lesson the other day as I watched a gardener at a large public garden tending some of the thousands of roses there by hand. The gardener was Lucas Jack of Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, N.C. Rather than spraying the rose beds with loads of toxic chemicals to battle pests, he was squatting down to reach under each rose with a hand rake, removing the little bits and pieces of dead twigs and leaves that had collected around the main stems. By taking away the material where disease can thrive he was taking away the ability of disease to catch hold and cause harm. I went right home and spent an hour cleaning my garden. It was only a start, and I'll have to do a few more rounds in the next week or so to finish the job.

Karina Koenig-Johnson
8/15/2012 10:31:24 AM

What a brilliant article - down to earth, and with photos too! Surely you don't compost your weeds, including grasses,do you? I compost cut grass etc, but never weeds. What do you think?

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