The Summer Garden

The Livin’ can be Easy in Summertime

Our lawns and gardens in King County are finally waking up after a spring that was so much cooler and wetter than normal. However, summer is usually a period of drought so it behooves us to consider water use and conservation in this beautiful region of ours. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes all of us in our village, whatever the size, to preserve the quality of the water all around us.

Water Smartly

Vegetable, annual, and perennial beds. Use soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems rather than sprinklers to deliver water deeply to the plants’ roots.  This method also keeps water off the leaves to help control fungus diseases.  Water early in the morning to minimize evaporation.

Container plants. In drought periods (which is all summer in King County), plants in containers may need to be watered as often as twice a day, so check them frequently. Decorative plastic pots conserve water better than porous terra cotta or ceramic pots.

Landscape planting (trees, shrubs). Landscape plants will still need water so use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to deliver water efficiently. Mulches help to conserve water.

Lawns. Established lawns need only 1 inch of water a week, a combination of rainwater and supplemental watering. Use an empty tuna or cat food can to measure. Here’s where you can use your sprinkler system as a more efficient way to deliver moisture to a wider area.  Aerate your lawn every few years to improve water penetration.


Circling the Drain

Groundwater and surface run-off water goes into our storm drains that flow into the streams that then flow into Puget Sound. This water doesn’t go through a water treatment process so anything we put on our lawns and gardens eventually winds up there as well.

Compost. This is the best choice of fertilizer.  Compost increases water retention and encourages healthy plants that resist disease.

Right amount, right time. Fertilizer, that is. More (and more often) isn’t better.

Mulch. Weeds don’t see the light of day so you won’t need a weed-killer.

Rifle vs shotgun. Spot-treat weeds instead of using a wide-area weed treatment.

Problem before solution. Know what the sick plant’s real problem is before applying pesticide. It may be cultural or environmental. Start with the least toxic remedy.


Garden care continues with weeding and deadheading. In August, divide early bloomers like iris and early poppies.


You can plant fall and winter crops of broccoli, cabbage, kale and onions in mid-July through early August.  Also in August, start succession planting of leaf lettuce, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard (which will over-winter). Harvest what you planted earlier in the season.


Lawn care consists mainly of watering and mowing. Mow regularly and in August, set the mower at 2 to 2.5 inches.  September is the best time to renovate an existing lawn or install a new one. The grass will have time (and the moisture from autumn rains) to establish itself before winter.


Take some time to visit a farmer’s market and sample the bounty that others have produced.  Aside from some very fresh produce, you may find the inspiration to try something new for next year.


– Marty Byrne

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