The Dog Days of Summer

July 3 to August 11 is the time of the season known as “the dog days of summer”.  The phrase has an interesting origin.  In ancient times it was the period extending 20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the Dog Star) and the sun.  The Romans believed the star radiated heat because it was so bright and coincided with the hottest part of the summer.

You might be sitting in your lawn chair this summer, looking over your lawn.  Are you starting to notice brown patches or weedy spots? Is the overall vigor of your lawn not up to par?  It may be time to start planning to renovate your lawn.  The months of September and October are the best times to do a lawn renovation.  Aeration and over seeding are recommended for some lawns, whereas a total renovation may be required for others.  Choices for establishment of new turf are seed or sod.  Although seeding is less expensive than sod it will take time to germinate and fill in.  Sod, on the other hand will give you an instant, green and weed free lawn.

Fall is also a great time to apply lime to your turf if required.  Lime is an amendment that helps raise the ph of the soil.  Turf grasses prefer a neutral 6.5 to 7.0 ph. Most soils in our area tend to be more acidic (below 7).  The ph of the soil determines how many nutrients are available in the soil to be taken up by plants.  Before adding any ph altering amendments, you should have your soil tested.  You can do this yourself or ask your landscape professional to test the soil for you.  The test results will reveal if any amendments are required and how much to apply. 

 Question: “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Answer: “20 years ago. The second best time is NOW!” We have lost a lot of trees in the last couple of years due to Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events.  Whether it is to replace one that has died or add a new point of interest for your landscape, one of the best things you can do for your environment is to plant a tree.  Trees are beautiful to look at, but have many benefits as well.  Trees provide shade in the summer, a wind break in the winter, food and shelter for wildlife and oxygen we all need to survive. 

When choosing a tree, there are many things to consider.  Is your site wet or dry, sunny or shady?  Do you need a small ornamental or a large shade tree?  If you have a small property, or overhead electrical wires, a large tree may be out of the question.  There are a number of lovely ornamental trees that will be more in scale with small spaces.  Trees such as Crape Myrtles, Star magnolias, crabapples, Dogwoods, Redbuds and Yoshino Cherries provide beautiful blooms while others like Japanese Maples offer interesting bark and foliage and stay small in stature.

Larger trees such as Maples, Oaks, Sweetgums, London Planes and Zelkovas, when planted near the southwest corner of a house, can keep the house cooler in the summer months, thus saving on energy bills. Evergreens can provide year round screening from unsightly views or provide privacy.  This group would include; arborvitaes, hemlock, pines, firs and spruces. River birches and weeping willows will thrive in problematic wet areas where other trees may suffer.  A consultation with a horticulturalist or a reputable landscape professional will help to insure you get the right tree to enjoy for years to come.