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posted: 7/12/2014 6:00 AM

Pruning, watering will help keep your yard looking sharp

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  • A small can will help you measure how long it takes your sprinkler to deliver 1 inch of water.

    A small can will help you measure how long it takes your sprinkler to deliver 1 inch of water.

By Tim Johnson, Chicago Botanic Garden

Prune shrubs as needed to keep them in the proper scale for your garden. New stems and branches that grew this spring will be mostly hardened off in early July, so pruning them now should not stimulate much new growth.

Careful pruning will leave the plants smaller but not looking "sheared." Try using a pair of hand pruners instead of an electric hedge clipper to create a more natural look.

Make individual cuts at different heights throughout the shrub. For a more formal look, make cuts at the same height. To help hide cuts, prune each twig or branch just above a leaf. Remove dead wood as necessary.

Keep pruning plants that have been espaliered, or trained against a flat surface, to keep them looking crisp. You should expect to trim the espaliered plants several times over the course of the summer to maintain the best appearance.

The consistent rain and generally cooler temperatures kept lawns green and growing through June. Established bluegrass lawns need 1 inch of water a week to continue actively growing and stay green throughout the summer.

Be consistent with your watering practices: Either water on a regular basis all summer or let your grass go dormant during hot, dry periods.

Water deeply once a week rather than lightly several times a week. This promotes a deeper root system so the grass will hold up better to stress. If your soil is heavy and water begins to run off the lawn after long periods of watering, you may need to split watering into a couple times per week.

Mowing your lawn at a height of three inches or more will also help the grass withstand stress and keep out weeds.

To determine how long it takes your sprinkler to deliver 1 inch of water, set out a coffee, tuna or other shallow can with straight sides and time how long it takes to fill the can an inch deep.

Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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