Garden Guides

Summer Garden Kismet

Summer Garden Kismet

Gardens are wonderous ecosystems where the destinies of plants, bugs, and fungi intertwine in a harmonious dance of life. Each element plays a crucial role, creating a balanced and thriving environment. Plants provide food and shelter, while bugs such as bees and butterflies pollinate flowers, ensuring the continuation of plant species. Fungi work behind the scenes, breaking down organic matter and enriching the soil with essential nutrients. This intricate web of interactions showcases the remarkable synergy and interdependence within nature, highlighting the delicate balance that sustains the beauty and vitality of gardens.

 

Here is are the summer kismet highlights:

Bugs 

These two summer bugs are essential to ecosystem health:

Praying Mantis are the predators of the garden; they are not only cool-looking creatures, but they are incredibly beneficial. They devour numerous types of insects, including aphids, flies, mosquitos, roaches, and even moths. They are great for organic pest control. Marigolds, dill, yarrow, fennel, and any shade plant attract mantises. Mantises feed frogs, lizards, birds, snakes, spiders, scorpions, ants, wasps, large hornets, bats, and other mantises. Using pesticides can harm mantises and anything that eats them. 

Roly-poly/Potato bugs benefit the soil; they eat decaying matter and vegetation and help speed up the decomposition of organic matter in soil and compost. They return nutrients to the earth. They can take heavy metals into their bodies and crystallize them; because of this, they have been the subject of environmental research. They feed frogs, toads, lizards, and small mammals. Diatomaceous earth will kill them. These little critters can be a great introduction to the insect world for children (even though they are terrestrial crustaceans!). 

~ Written by Shae B.

Fungi 

Summer is a time of warmth, growth, and exploration in the natural world. And in this vibrant season, fungi have intriguing traits. So let’s learn about the fantastic things fungi can do for our forests and gardens in the summer!

While many mushrooms prefer the cool and damp conditions of spring and autumn, some species thrive in the heat of summer. These sun-loving mushrooms emerge in open fields, meadows, and even on sandy dunes. They boast vibrant colors and unique shapes, showcasing nature’s artistry under the summer sun. 

Summer nights bring their special magic, and fungi join the nocturnal festivities. Some mushrooms are bioluminescent, emitting a soft, ethereal glow in the darkness. These captivating organisms light up the forest floor or decaying logs, creating a mystical ambiance. Imagine walking through the woods under a starlit sky, guided by the gentle glow of bioluminescent mushrooms.

As the summer landscape transforms, so does the variety of edible mushrooms available for foraging. Experienced foragers eagerly venture into the woods, armed with baskets and a keen eye for culinary treasures. From delectable chanterelles and porcini to prized morels, the summer bounty of edible mushrooms offers a chance to connect with nature’s flavors and indulge in the delights of seasonal cooking.

While fungi are critical for the health of our ecosystem, not all fungi are friendly to your plants, and it’s usually in more extreme weather conditions, such as summer, that we experience fungal frustrations. Here are some options to consider to help keep your garden and yard healthy in the summer:

Avoid overwatering: Give your yard time to “dry out” between waterings. Like with Athlete’s Foot, excessive moisture is a breeding ground for fungal diseases. 

Avoid watering your plants overhead: Overhead watering creates the perfect damp breeding ground for fungal diseases. 

Avoid working in your yard when the plants are wet: When you handle wet plants, you may spread the spores of fungal diseases from plant to plant, increasing the odds they will find a new favorite spot in your yard to reside.

Clean your garden tools: For the same reasons, garden tools must be cleaned to avoid spreading disease. Depending on the tool material, you can use a vinegar/water solution, isopropyl alcohol, or a 10% bleach solution.

Keep your yard well-weeded: This helps to keep the spread of fungal diseases from plant to plant to a minimum.

Plant “Sacrificial Plants”: Pests can help spread fungal diseases, especially in the spring. I plant what I call “sacrificial plants.” These plants are known to attract or deter certain pests in your yard, helping to keep your other plants alive and well. Some of my favorites are Sacrificial Tai Sai, Sunflowers, Marigolds, and Lavender. 

Learn about your area: Explore your local university, county, or state extension to learn more about fungi in your area. Melissa has written a great article about “Utilizing Your Local Agriculture College's Extension Office” in the 2022 Almanac!

- Written by Nichole P.

 

Plants and Trees

As the summer warms up, we start to feel the heat that can make us want to hide indoors. It’s good practice to consider how your plants, trees, and soil also deal with the heat. The heat can be harsh, but the life-giving sun can create issues that may last year-round. 

Here are some questions to ask as you health check your garden in the summer: 

Choice of plant and placement: After the first year or two, your plant should deal well with a regular watering schedule. If, while visiting your plants, you need to water an extra time each day or even more often, then you may need to rethink the location or even choice of plant for your area and the time you can give the plant. 

Burning and die-off: Summer is when the plant’s growth happens, and the plants settle in their new growth. But if you see burning of leaves and large amounts of die-off, it is a sign that the plant can not keep itself full and healthy and invest in new growth every year. 

Soil: This is a crucial topic. Your soil and how and what you are adding to support soil health will show in this heat. Get down and hold some in your hands, and watch for fungi; a good mix of decomposing organic plant waste brings food and water to the plants. The spring is a great time to add a thick layer of compost. By the time summer comes around, it will be feeding your plants, but the essential job of the compost layer will help hold moisture in the ground longer into the day as it heats up. Moisture, fungi, and rich soil smell are a sign you’re doing great work on soil prep. 

Water: To me, ending the days by walking the garden and watering your green friends is a great way to unwind and an excellent time to check in on your plants. Here are a few things to think about. Top water- not all plants love to be top watered, so google them and find out. Some plants love it, so gifting them that spray of water as dusk comes around helps them, and it cools the air for you while you’re out in the garden. Next is soil water resistance - it is common, especially while you’re working to improve your soil, that it will get very dry on the surface. This causes the water to pull up and stand on top of the soil, and more water will make the standing pools break free and travel away from your intended watering focus. I have found a great way to deal with this: to make a quick trip around your area, lightly moisten the soil, and top water the plants you know like it. Then start back at the beginning place to do a deeper watering session. This will give the water you put on the very dry and resistant soil time to break the resistance barrier so you can water deeper right where you want to. It also will increase the humidity in the area and cool the air, things both you and your plants can enjoy on a hot summer evening or early morning. 

~ Written by Will C. & Melissa C.

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Almanac:

This and our other garden guides come from the 2024 Kismet Almanac. Check it out here. 

 

 

 

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