July in the Waterwise Garden
Now is the time to start planning for pollinators, provide deep watering for your plants and deadheading faded flowers in your gardens. Late-blooming, pollinator-friendly plants, especially native species, are why our late summer/early fall gardens here in northern New Mexico can be more colorful than springtime with stunning displays of dramatic flowers and attractive seed heads. Brilliantly colored perennials are all wonderful additions to the waterwise landscape and are an essential source of natural nectar for pollinators and stunning colors to please gardeners. Gorgeous ornamental grasses come into bloom as well, setting seeds that will feed songbirds through the fall and winter. 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. Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Sage (Salvia), Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), Hybrid Aster (Aster x frikartii), Milkweed (Asclepias), Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus) and warm-season ornamental grasses like Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia), 'Blonde Ambition Grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis), Sacaton grass (Sporobolus) and others are all excellent summer/fall bloomers. All these plants and 100's more will be available at our 2022 Pollinator Plant Days, August 10 - 13th.
Keep on a Regular Watering schedule
The monsoon rains have started but there are not yet a daily occurrence. It’s possible to reduce the frequency of irrigation once the monsoon rains have produced 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.
It’s most likely best to keep on a regular watering schedule. Most importantly, water deeply, not more frequently. Keep your drip system on the same schedule, just add some time to each watering cycle to ensure water goes deep into the soil. Deep watering grows deep roots.
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. A thick layer of mulch is essential when it's hot and dry.
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), Guara (Appleblossom Grass) are just a few of the spring-blooming perennials that are ready to deadhead now. Deadheading can encourage many perennials to re-bloom as well. Catmints are easily deadheaded by gathering together the flowering spikes and simply cutting off the whole bunch just above the foliage. They'll re-bloom later this month with rains or a little extra irrigation.
Be sure to not cut off all the seed heads from Penstemon (Beardtongue), Linum (Blue Flax) and Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender). Leave a few on each plant to allow them to re-seed themselves. This will ensure that your garden and landscape will always have some of these re-seeding perennials growing there.
Here are instructions 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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