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Use holiday to work outdoors

Normal people are grilling out today, finding a cool pool or shaded hammock. Gardeners, alas, are not normal people.

We’re likely to be mowing, grubbing in the dirt or hauling plants over the three-day weekend, no matter how hot it gets. With a forecast that makes late May feel like late July, don’t overdo it.

What to do

•Keep up with the deadheading. As soon as flowers are past their peak, snip them off. This keeps the plant from thinking it’s time to start making seeds.

•This is prime weeding time. The bad boys will be so traumatized, they might stay down. I carry black (not striped) sunflower seeds and drop them in the holes when I pull out a weed in a garden bed. Sunflowers are strong competitors in the survival game.

•Pack up the pruner. Normally, it is perfectly find to prune shrubs right after they bloom. Late May should be prime time, but not when it’s 90 degrees.

•Plants in pots might need to be watered every day. You can reduce the need by putting mulch or rocks on top of the soil. If it is hot and dry for a long time, move all of the pots to a shaded area near a water source.

What not to do

•This sounds counterintuitive, but don’t water too much. There is a temptation to turn on the sprinkler and let it run and run. In weather like this, consider one good drink once a week for the lawn and garden beds. If you have any new trees or shrubs, don’t let them get so dry they fade away.

•Hold off on planting shrubs and trees. You can do it when it’s this darned hot, but they’ll be stressed and will take extra care for a lot longer than if you wait until we have a cooler spell.

•Gardening experts say to stop fertilizing your lawn if we have extended periods of dry, hot weather. Fertilizer can burn the grass or encourage it to grow when it should go dormant for its own good.

•Don’t mow so much. When it’s hot and not so wet, move the mower setting to the highest level and mow only when the grass is looking ragged. Grass that is a little bit longer shades the ground and retains whatever moisture there is.

•Don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t perfect. This is an unusual year.

Do what you can, and then consider looking for a hammock.

Anne Gregory is a garden putterer, not a gardening expert, and The Journal Gazette Web writer and editor. Share your garden photos (JPEGs, please) and gardening tips. They may be sent to agregory@jg.net. Put “Garden” in the subject line. Items may also be sent to Gregory at 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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