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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

Understanding the Summer Garden

Now is the time to invite pollinators, pull weeds, water and deadhead your gardens and understand why August and September gardens are the prettiest time of year. Late blooming, pollinator-friendly plants are why our late summer/early fall gardens here in northern New Mexico can be more colorful than springtime with stunning displays of flowers and seed heads. Brilliantly colored perennials and gorgeous ornamental grasses are all wonderful additions to the waterwise landscape as a source of natural nectar for pollinators and stunning colors to please gardeners. Read on for essential tips for caring for your landscapes in July and August.

Late season flowers are both beautiful and essential to support pollinator populations.

-Nectar is essential for feeding migrating hummingbirds as they work their way south to their winter habitats in southern AZ, NM and Mexico. And remember that natural nectar provided by flowers is so much more nutritious than sugar water.

-Migrating Monarchs also need flowers as they too fly south to winter in the mountains pine forests of central Mexico.

-And of course, the honeybees need late season nectar to store honey for winter food.

Planting to Fill In After Spring Bloomers

Many of us naturally buy what’s in flower when shopping for plants in the spring. But many perennials will only bloom for 3 to 4 weeks and go green for the rest of the growing season. So summer is a great time to go through your garden and identify where some summer and fall blooming plants can help to “color up” your garden. Aster (Aster), Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) , Sage (Salvia), Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), Ornamental Onion (Allium), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Tickseed (Coreopsis), Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus) and warm season ornamental grasses like Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia), Prairie Switch grass (Panicum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium), Sacaton grass (Sporobolus) and others are all excellent summer/fall bloomers. All these plants and many more will be available at our August Pollinator Plant Sale Event, Thursday, Friday and Saturday August 8, 9, 10th.


The wet winter and spring months of this year have been a blessing to our parched landscapes. But with moisture, comes weeds. Make the effort to cut or pull weeds before they set seed to reduce future weed populations in your yard. Pay special attention to controlling weeds like goatheads (Tribulus terrestris) and cheat grass (Bromus tectorum). These two invasive weeds can render your yard unusable, especially if you have kids and pets.

As you look around for weeds, pay special attention to Siberian elm seedlings and saplings. After a good soaking rain in mid-summer, seek out and pull young seedlings to get rid of them. By the time these seedlings become saplings, they are too large to pull. So it’s necessary to cut them off at the base and paint (with a paint brush) some Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer on the cut, to kill the roots. Otherwise, they will simply re-sprout and continue to grow. This spring brought with it a huge Elm seed crop that piled up like blowing snow in May. The seeds collect in bar ditches along roadsides, under bushes and around clumps of ornamental grasses where they germinate profusely, especially where drip systems provide water for cultivated plants (see photo).

Keep on a Regular Watering schedule

The monsoon rains have not yet started in earnest, so it’s important to keep on a regular watering schedule. To save water, it’s possible to reduce the frequency of irrigation once the monsoon rains have provided your property with several soaking rains of ½” or more. But go get a rain gauge so you’ll have an accurate reading of how much rain has fallen.


If you haven’t already done so, mulch any bare soil around this spring’s transplants to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. Also, be sure your be sure that all your established perennials, trees and shrubs are well mulched.

Refer to our Summer Watering and Mulching blog for more detailed information.


Your spring blooming flowers have finished and it’s time to “deadhead” them. Do this by taking your clippers and cutting off the flowering stems where they push past the foliage at the base of the plant. Penstemon (Beardtongue), Aquilegia (Columbine), Hymenoxys (Sundancer Daisy) and Nepeta (Catmint) are just a few of the spring blooming perennials that are ready to deadhead now. Catmints are easily deadheaded by gathering together the flowering spikes and simply cutting off the whole bunch just above the foliage. They will re-bloom later this month with rains or a little extra irrigation.

Be sure to not cut off all the Penstemon’s seed heads. Leave a few on each plant to allow them to re-seed themselves. This will insure that your garden and landscape will always have some Penstemon growing there.

Here are instruction using Nepeta as an example:

Now that the Nepeta around town have finished blooming, deadheading now will bring the plant back into bloom later in the summer.

#1 Nepeta plant that has finished blooming and is ready for deadheading. Note how the flowering stems are splaying outward exposing a new rosette of foliage in the middle.

#2 Start cutting around the edge of the center foliage, cutting off the old flowering stems all the way back to the edge of the new foliage.

#3 The center mound of new foliage with all the old flowering stems deadheaded from the plant.

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