Summer comes with long days, fun nights, backyard cookouts, pool parties, sunbathing, and stargazing! I love summer, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy your yard and landscape. It also can be the most vulnerable time for your lawn and any newly planted flowers, shrubs, and trees. During the dog days of summer, the lush fescue lawn of Spring can fade into a thatchy and patchy disappointment. Don’t let this happen to you!
In this article, I’ll share three ways you can take now to make your yard and landscape beautiful and enjoyable no matter the heat. Smart irrigation systems, native plantings, and shade structures will summer-proof your landscape and allow you to make the most of the summer season!
Smart Irrigation Systems
A properly installed and maintained irrigation system has many advantages for your landscape. The first step to identifying whether you need an irrigation system is assessing your goals and any current drought-related issues, such as dried and cracked soil, or brown, dried-up grass and plants. While well-established grass, shrubs, flowers, and trees generally have root systems that are capable of finding groundwater, newly installed flora can be very vulnerable to damage in the dry and hot weather. As ground cover thins, more soil is exposed making it vulnerable to sediment runoff, which is very bad for local water quality.
To avoid issues, make sure your soil and plants stay hydrated. Set up a garden hose from your outdoor hose bib, hook up your rain barrel with a drip line, and/or invest and a professional-grade irrigation system. Keeping your soil moist remains a healthy medium for roots and essential microbiology, which helps sequester carbon from the air.
The best times to water your landscape are early in the morning and at night. If your routine or schedule doesn’t afford the flexibility to hand water your landscape, invest in an irrigation system with zones that allow you to water different parts of your landscape independently from others. If you have a house that has an irrigation system already installed, schedule a time with a professional to evaluate its functionality. Valve leaks, pooling water, and damaged sprinkler heads can be repaired or replaced by an experienced professional.
Just as important as hydrating your soil, is ensuring that your soil is not overwatered, leading to wasted water and unnecessary runoff. To avoid such problems, install a rain sensor, and program your irrigation system in collaboration with a horticultural professional to ensure your softscapes thrive.
Irrigation systems allow you to have more control over your landscape and can serve as functional insurance to protect very valuable mature trees, shrubs, and flowers that can have variable tolerances to the heat and drought our region can experience during the summer. They also afford peace of mind, while away or on vacation. Rest easy knowing your landscape is still being watered at the appropriate time with the appropriate amount. This same flexibility allows you to customize your space further to meet your individual ideal aesthetic or preference, whether those are vegetables, fruit, or something more ornamental.
Before installation, please be conscientious of root disruption, particularly for mature trees. Summer is the worse time to cut roots, as they can have a compounded affected on the health of the tree by reducing water supply and potentially structural support to stand up against heavy winds and summer storms. All of our irrigation systems are installed with root sensitivity in mind. This is a consideration that cannot be risked.
Maintenance of irrigation systems is important, and you should be sure to review these steps with your installer. Generally, they will require winterization in November and then a re-activation in early Spring after the last frost. Once an irrigation system is installed, it is a great long-term investment that puts your mind and landscape at ease!
But there is another way! The most common American landscape consisting of bright green lawns and not much else is far from the ecosystem that allows wildlife to be supported and ultimately thrive. Native ecosystems are becoming less prevalent and resulting in a loss of habitat for pollinators like native bees and butterflies. Without native plants, birds and the insects they rely on do not have what they need to anchor the ecosystem, which can have dire consequences. By embedding native plants in your landscape you can help correct this imbalance by serving an ecological niche for birds and pollinating bugs. They are also ideal for certain areas because they require less watering and generally do very well with minimal soil amendments given to their adaptation to the native soils.
If you are ready to start fresh with an entirely new planting plan, we will be happy to explore xeriscaping options, bayscapes, and other conservation landscape designs that can be enjoyed by you and the world around you.
At TLC, we work with non-profit organizations, growers, and nurseries in our region to maintain a curated supply of native plants that allow for thriving habitats for birds and pollinators and look beautiful within your landscape! Summersweets, Phox subulata, Iris cristata, Heucrera iongi, and Geraniums are just a few of our favorites. These plants will make all the difference in your landscape this season and more to come!
Summersweets flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. The seeds are eaten by songbirds. Helping the ecosystem. Phox subulata and their beautifully colorful flowers and sweet nectar, attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Their roots provide a tasty snack for voles and rabbits. Iris cristatas flowers attract hummingbirds and bumblebees. Heucrera iongi will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Geraniums attract bees, syrphid flies, and butterflies.
There are so many other options that can be matched with the light, moisture, and soil in your landscape, and we are ready to discuss them with you.
SUMMERSWEET PLANT (CLETHRA ALNIFOLIA)
CREEPING OR MOSS PHLOX (PHLOX SUBULATA)
DWARF CRESTED IRIS (IRIS CRISTATA)
RED LIGHTNING (HEUCHERA IONGI)
Made in the Shade
No discussion of summer in the DMV is complete without considering the shade. Depending on your landscape, you may be in need of a shade structure to keep your days enjoyable. There are many ways to create shade in your landscape. Popular shade structures include pergolas, gazebos, awnings, sun sails, and trees!
Shade structures create a barrier that protects your hardscapes and softscapes from UV and inclement weather conditions. If positioned correctly the structure can cast a shade on your home and help to decrease the temperature within. UV rays can be harmful to the skin and can cause wood and plastic furniture to fade and crack. When we install new shade structures, it’s important that it flows as part of your landscape and delivers functionality and beauty.
But, the most natural and classic way to create shade within your landscape is to plant trees in strategic areas that cast shade on the needed areas. Do your research or meet with one of our professionals to ensure that any other necessary adjustments for soil chemistry are considered. Also, consider any existing new understory shrubs and flowers that have unique needs for light and water. As trees mature, areas that are the full sun will gradually become shaded, and you may need to transplant or replace those plants to ensure they continue to thrive.
Summer heat is here, and there’s is a lot to consider. Please call us to be connected with me or another one of our excellent professionals to ensure your landscape is the best it can be this summer and for many more summers to come!
Visit us online at TLC Design to learn more and fill out a consultation form so we can chat or visit.
We hope you have a fun-filled summer!
Patrick utilizes his passion for the outdoors along with his professional skills as a licensed Landscape and Home Improvement contractor in Virginia and Maryland, as well as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED Green Associate. Patrick has a BA from Yale University, where he studied climate change and its impact on society.