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Fourth of July Garden Tips

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I’m not going to give you a bunch of Fourth of July garden tips that focus on planting red, white and blue things to decorate or making a red and blue berry salad with whip cream to feed your favorite patriots. Rather, let’s consider some safety precautions going into the holiday of fiery ka-boom!

Here in the PacNW, we’re experiencing a record-breaking hot, dry summer. It feels like its been 90F since May. And, this blazing, record-shattering spring-into-summer is following on the heels of a not particularly moist or cool fall, winter, spring, and let’s face it, last year and a half!

And, what happens at times like these? Plants croak.

Fourth of July Garden Tip Example

Plants live. Plants die.
If you’ve got a croaker lurking your border, yank it before it becomes a flaming holiday torch.

Okay, so plants croak all the time. But, when we’re low on water and high on heat during days when the sun rises around 4:30am and seems to finally set around 10pm, more plants are more likely to give up the ghost, and they do it quite a bit faster than during more “normal” temperate weather periods.

Our #1 tip for getting ready for The Fourth: Pull out your dead, tinderbox shrubs and other kindling-worthy plants. Left in place, they’re just waiting for a stray bottle-rocket or other firework to spark them into a blaze of unwanted holiday glory. Yank them today! Even if fireworks are illegal in your area, we all know somebody is going to light them anyway, and you don’t want your home or garden to be that jerk’s victim.

Tip #2 for readying your garden for Independence Day: Irrigate your garden. Assuming you aren’t under drought restrictions, get out there and moisten your planting beds and any flammable pathways. (If you are under water restrictions, keep reading. We’ve got solutions for you too!) If you have chosen to install “beauty bark” in your garden, be sure it is really well soaked. We’ve gotten more than one report over the years of this stuff spontaneously igniting on a hot day — no fireworks required. In Seattle there’s even an emergency response code for this kind of fire: BARK! (Just one more reason to hate the not beautiful bark junk.)

Close up of dead Nandina

If a shrub, tree or other plant is crispy like this Nandina we transplanted unsuccessfully in our own test gardens, put it into the compost heap today before the fireworks can ignite it!

Fortunately in Seattle we aren’t experiencing water use restrictions thanks to forward thinking by our water planners. However, if you are under restrictions (or if you just hate wasting water), buy a bucket for less than $5 to keep in your shower. As you heat water to a shower-friendly temperature, you’ll probably collect a couple of gallons each time. Pour your collected moisture into a watering can and use it wisely ahead of firecracker day and throughout the long, dry summer ahead.  Having even a bit of water in your garden can help fizzle any sizzles that hit your land.

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