10 Neat Things About the Dog Days of Summer
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

July 12, 2009

  1. Dog Days. The Dog Days go on for about 40 days from early July to mid August. They are generally the hottest days of summer and the period is named, by the Ancient Greeks, after Sirius, the Dog Star, which used to rise around the same time as the sun through the period.
  2. Salad days. Salad days are entirely different from Dog Days; they are the years of one's carefree and possibly indiscrete youth. When it comes to growing salad, Dog Days are definitely not good. All that heat can make the lettuce bolt.
  3. Lightening. Gardens enjoy a good lightening storm, and it isn't just the rain. Lightening, in simple terms, gets atmospheric nitrogen down to the ground in a form that plants can use. Since nitrogen is a key component of chlorophyll, grass and other plants are actually noticeably greener after a good storm.
  4. Wind is good for plants. It assists with pollination, spreads seeds (something your plants may appreciate more than you do, particularly where dandelions are concerned), and encourages young trees to develop stronger anchor roots.
  5. Wind is bad for plants. On the minus side, wind knocks planters around, potentially leading to breakage of pots and plants. It also dries out the soil in them. Drying out is the quickest route to death for an outdoor potted plant.
  6. Rainwater is best. Even if you don't worry about conserving water (since watering gardens and trees is one of the most environmentally friendly uses for water and does not contribute to a net loss of fresh water), collecting it in a rain barrel for distribution to the garden is a good idea. Rainwater has a high sulphur content. Plants appreciate the sulphur boost.
  7. The full moon. Turns out, even under the scrutiny of the scientific method, plants absorb more water when the moon is full. And it isn't the additional light at night; they do so even indoors, in the absence of natural light.
  8. Watering in sunlight. It won't harm your plants, but it isn't ideal to water your plants a high noon because the drying effects of the sun will see to it that less water gets down to the roots. That old caution that water droplets magnify the sun to scorch the plants? Poppycock.
  9. Dormant lawns. The grasses we grow for lawns in Canada fare best between 5 and 25 degrees Celsius, and they don't care much for drought. In hot weather or drought, our grasses cope by going dormant. They stop the chlorophyll production, so they turn brown. This doesn't mean they're dead, though; they tend to green up again in the fall. If you cannot or choose not to water your lawn, just leave it alone during the dormant phase and appreciate freedom from having to mow!
  10. Summer in the city. Urban areas are actually hotter than rural areas because of something called the heat island effect. Many factors are involved, but essentially, all that concrete absorbs heat during the day and keeps the area warmer through the night. A shady garden can be several degrees cooler, making the city heat a little more bearable.

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