If you survey most homeowners, they will share that the best time to plant anything is in the spring. And if you dig further, in survey form, you will get a lot of reasons why you shouldn't plant anything in summer.
Well, there are a few items that are better in the spring, such as a few bare-root shrubs or bulbs. But we would like to share that most plants work just fine with summer planting. One really good indicator of the wisdom of summertime garden projects is to look at the professional landscapers – who spend all summer installing both residential and commercial landscape projects.
If the pro’s can do it – we can too!
So - the idea of Summer’scape – doing some garden and landscape projects all summer….
There are a few things that are different about summer plantings. The most important is that we are working with living plant material that is actively growing – so we need to be aware of the soil / root zone and take a few extra steps.
Plant size – or maybe worded differently pot/rootball size.
For most of our summer plantings we tend to favour plant material that is in larger pots or containers. A good example of this might be a bedding plant annual like a geranium – in spring we typically plant annuals in cell packs or small pots – while in summer we like to use plants grown in larger pots, like a 6” (15cm) pot versus a smaller cell pack. We like the larger root ball for a bunch of reasons. The practical reason is that in the heat of summer, a larger root mass will dry out less quickly. It is planted deeper in the soil, and due to it’s larger size and the added protection of a deeper hole, there is generally better root penetration down and the plant can take off and grow more easily. Another reason is more ornamental in nature – summer-planted plants are typically bigger as we have less of the season to enjoy them – and the plants have less time to grow. In summer bigger is always better!
A spring-planted flower or woody plant has the benefit of cooler temperatures as well as benefiting from our typically rainy spring weather. Planting in the heat of summer means that we do have to water more carefully to help our new summer-planted landscape get established. We need to make sure we are adding the right soil amendments to hold some moisture (peat and compost) as well daily, or as needed, watering. We often talk about watering deeply – and in the case of summer plantings that means making sure that bigger soil ball we planted gets water all the way to the bottom of our root zone. Worded differently – give your newly planted summer plants a good solid soaking with that hose.
A few tricks to get the roots zone of a Summer’scape going. Traditionally we like to use a high phosphorous ‘transplant’ fertilizer – high middle number. Since our plant is already bigger than a spring-planted flower or shrub, we can back off the first number (N) and focus on roots. We also like themycorrhizal fungi products like MYKE in our summer plants – especially trees and shrubs. Anything that can boost roots in a summer planting is a good idea. Finally, we always like adding a layer of mulch, 7-8 cm of mulch. around summer-planted plants will help keep the soil cool and help keep the water in the root zone – hugely important if the weather turns nasty hot right after planting.
So take a tip from the pros and look at Summer’scape projects all summer long.