Gardening with Laurie: Take the bite out of the dog days of summer

By Laurie Garretson
July 15, 2014 at 2:15 a.m.
Updated July 17, 2014 at 2:17 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Laurie Garretson

The dog days of summer have arrived, and gardening just isn't as much fun in the heat and humidity. Having a big shade tree in your yard can make a difference, especially during this time of year.

Trees add so much to a landscape. The value of a house can be increased by having trees on the property. Trees not only provide shade for us but also for our pets and home, which then lowers our air conditioning bills.

Now is a good time to walk around your yard and see where additional shade might be needed. Trees can be planted anytime of the year - with fall being the best time.

The intense heat can be stressful to any plant planted now. If you are planning to plant a tree during the next couple of months, be prepared to water it regularly for several weeks.

When planting a new tree, remove all the grass in a 1-foot area surrounding the trunk. Keep this area well-mulched, but keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. Young trees will grow faster when there is no grass growing around them.

The bark on young trees can easily be killed or damaged by weed trimmers and mowers. Keeping an area around the trunk grass-free and weed-free will prevent this kind of damage.

Large, well-established trees can many times be overlooked by the homeowners. I think they feel anything that old and established can surely take care of itself. The severe drought we have been in for several years now has taken a toll on all types of trees - young and old.

Any tree that has been in the ground for five to 10 years can benefit from being fed two to three times a year. Nutrients and water can encourage faster growth.

Trees of any age can benefit from being fed. If an older tree has been invaded by worms or insects of any type, has yellowing leaves, drops an excessive amount of limbs, has been damaged and just shows signs of stress, then fertilizing is indeed recommended.

Regular watering will also be important. When watering older trees lay your garden hose at the drip line of the tree. The drip line of a tree is under the ends of the branches at the edge of the trees canopy. Let the hose run slowly for many hours. Every few hours move the hose to another side of the drip line area.

When making planting beds around the trunks of trees, consider the root systems need for oxygen. The roots that absorb the most water and nutrients for a tree are located primarily in the upper 16 to 18 inches of soil.

Because of this need for oxygen, the roots grow close to the surface where the oxygen is available. Excessive amounts of soil on these roots will cause the roots to suffocate and die. Dead roots can weaken and stress a tree and even lead to death.

Take care of your trees, and they can provide your landscape with a lifetime of beauty and shade.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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