Many people wonder if they can plant in mid-August or if they should wait until fall. While those who live in areas where summer temperatures are in the triple digits might need to wait for September, here on Cape Cod it’s actually desirable to put plants in the garden in the summertime. Our temperatures aren’t usually so high because of the sea-breezes, and plants will be able to have more time to establish some new roots before winter. Additionally, homeowners are seeing the spaces where they’d like a new shrub, tree or perennial accurately at this time of year, so they have a good idea of the space and what plant would be appropriate.
The key to successful summer planting is the watering after a plant is placed in the ground. Use a soaker hose or sprinkler so that the area four feet or more beyond the center of the plant gets moist; this will help the new roots grow faster. Like all watering of plants, in this case a deep soaking less often is better than a little bit every other day. In other words, don’t rely on your automatic irrigation system to keep a new plant well watered if that system is only going off for twenty to thirty minutes every other day.
To learn how long to run your soaker hose or sprinkler, turn it on and let it run for two to three hours. Then dig down in the soil a couple of feet from your new plant and see if the dirt is moist at least 12 to 16 inches down. If you encounter dry soil six inches into your digging, you’ll know that the timing needs to be doubled. Water new plants once a week unless the temperatures are above 85…in that case, water every four or five days until things cool down, and then switch back to once a week.
If you’ve had a problem with rabbits feeding this summer, spray newly placed perennials with a rabbit repellent right after planting, or protect the plants for a few days with a barrier or fence. Rabbits are often attracted to new plants because they come so fresh and pumped-up from the grower.
If your new tree has a large canopy or is a tall evergreen, stake it in three or four directions to help it stay upright through the fall windy season. Mark on your calendar to remove this staking next spring, however. The swaying of a trunk in the wind produces hormones that signal a tree to grow a larger root system.
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