What to do in your Iowa garden this month

Keep up with watering, but be smart about it. Water in the cool of early morning and really soak an area, rather than just dampening it. Photo by Dole / Fotolia

When it’s hot and dry, gardens need extra care and attention to keep lawns and plantings looking their best.

With all this hot, dry weather forecast, it’s critical to keep up with watering chores. Water when it’s cool and still. Otherwise, you can lose up to 50 percent of the water to evaporation. Mornings are best to give plants time to dry off before nightfall, when fungal diseases can start. It’s smart to invest in a timer so you can start your sprinkler in the wee hours of the morning, before the sun even comes up.

Water occasionally and deep, rather than often and shallow. It’s better for the plants and saves water in the long run. Apply 1 inch of water to lawns and flower beds. Set out a shallow dish or pan to collect the water so you can tell when 1 inch has been achieved. Be aware that watering a large area can take time, often a few hours.

Harvest early and often for the most tender, sweetest produce and to keep plants producing well. Pick zucchini, for example, with the yellow flower still attached.

Be careful buying plants on clearance now. If they look vibrant and healthy, they probably are. But if they are damaged or scraggly, chances are they won’t revive. Save your money for other plants!

Continue to plant container-grown or balled-and-burlapped trees, shrubs, and roses now. However, avoid planting bare-root roses and other bare-root plants. This late in the season, they’ll struggle to get established.

Continue to deadhead-that is, trim spent blooms-from annuals, perennials, and some shrubs. It keeps your garden more attractive and in many cases, it will encourage more flowers longer.

Time to practice tough love. If a tree or shrub is still struggling with winter damage or overall sickness, with significant amounts of dead wood, it’s almost time to dig it up or cut it down.

Most lettuce by now has started to bolt, that is, send up tall, elongated stalks. At this point, it turns bitter. Pull it up and pitch it on your compost heap.

Veronica Lorson Fowler lives in Ames and is the author of several garden books, including “Gardening in Iowa” published by the University of Iowa Press. Subscribe to her free electronic Iowa gardening newsletter at www.theiowagardener.com or ask her your garden questions on Facebook. Just search Facebook for “Iowa Gardener.”