If you’ve spent much time outside lately then you know the heat of summer is near as we approach July. Many of our favorite landscape plants, vegetable plants and turf grasses will all feel the heat. Since plants cool themselves with evapotranspiration (their form of sweating), it is very important to manage water as temperatures continue to climb in late June and into July and August. Plants also use water in food production and everyday functions. How, when, and how much you water varies by current plant growth rate, plant type and natural rainfall. Check your soil moisture daily when no rain occurs.

Unless you live on the lake or some other natural body of water, increasing irrigation rates can be expensive when little rain occurs. Excess irrigation can increase plant diseases and put turf and other landscape plants at risk. As a small-time vegetable and flower grower, I’ve often made the mistake of watering when I got home in the evening. I often made the additional mistake of wetting all the plant foliage in the process, leaving the plants wet all night long. This resulted in more disease problems and reduced food or flower production and wasted water.

Now, I’ve learned to water early in the morning, or early enough during the day so that plant foliage is dry going into nightfall. I now use a long hose attachment that allows me to control water flow and to wet the soil and mulch near the plant and not the plant foliage. Plants are naturally wet overnight by dew but, the time span of leaf wetness is greatly reduced. Good irrigation practices do not stop all disease problems but can reduce the likelihood of major problems while keeping plants healthy in the heat.

Most irrigation questions I get concern turf irrigation, but those with vegetable gardens, flower beds, and significant numbers of woody landscape plants may need to adjust their tactics according to our weather during the heat of summer with some supplemental watering so that plants are not overly stressed.

Other plant management techniquesUnder good growing conditions, many landscape flower beds, woody landscape plantings, rose beds and vegetable plantings can become crowded. Dense planting can create conditions conducive to more disease and insect problems. Check planting when watering and assess the need for some light pruning to speed foliage drying and help reduce disease problems.

Check tomatoes for leaf diseases such as early blight and prune away diseased lower branches and destroy them. Add new mulch to avoid soil splashing during rain events.

Check roses for disease and insect damage. Plants with old insect damage or spent blooms can be lightly pruned back to side buds or branches to allow for more blooms during late summer. Fast growing Knock-Out Roses generally respond well with new late-season blooms when given light fertilization and regular watering.

Dense flower plantings may need to have some thinning of plant foliage to increase airflow and leaf drying. Remove diseased foliage or diseased plants and any weeds that have appeared. and lightly fertilized to encourage new blooms.

Fall Master Gardener class informational

meetingWe will have a free informational meeting from 6-8 p.m. July 15 at the Extension office in Greenwood for those who might be interested in the class. Fall classes will begin in mid-August and run until mid-November from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday nights. Members of the LMGA will be on hand to answer questions about their association and provide information on their partial scholarship process for the class for those interested. Cost of the class is $300.

If you plan to attend the information meeting, call 864-223-3264 extension 116 so I can prepare handout information.

James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.