by Bonnah Boyd, Somervell County Master Gardener
This phrase refers to the sultry days of summer. In the Northern Hemisphere the dog days of summer are most commonly experienced in the months of July and August.
The phrase has an ancient astrological origin. The Romans noted that the brightest star, Sirius in the Big Dog constellation (Canis Major) was lined up with the sun during the hottest time of the year. This conjunction was believed to cause the peak heat of summer. The Old Farmers’ Almanac lists the traditional period as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.
Many events are often planned during the “Dog Days”. These include dog contests and pictures, parties, sports tournaments at the beach, baseball games and tours, with or without your dog.
If you plan a summer vacation during this time, don’t forget the plants, both indoors and out. Below is a checklist of activities to do for your garden and plants prior to leaving.
Water: Irrigate landscape and garden thoroughly. If you have a vegetable garden, have a neighbor water, as needed. Many containerized plants need watering at least every third day to survive the heat. Group containers together in easy reach of the water hose.
Mow: Mow and trim your lawn the day before you leave. The lawn may need to be mowed a week later, so either be home then or make arrangements for weekly mowing.
Weed: Pull, spray or mulch over existing weeds in the garden and landscape.
Prune: Check roses, perennials and annual flowers to determine if they need deadheading.
Mulch: Mulching preserves water in the soil, reduces soil temperatures, reduces weed populations and gives a fresh look to the garden.
Do a pest check: Check for insects and diseases. Take action to control populations of insects pests that are present. Diseases are less prevalent in the summer, but check for fungal diseases, such as black spot and blight. Apply a fungal spray as needed.
Harvest: In the vegetable garden, harvest all ripe and nearly ripe fruit. Call a neighbor to come harvest for you, if you are going to be gone for more than a week.
Reference: Doug Welch’s Texas Garden Almanac