Midsummer Garden Care

August 7, 2011

Midsummer Garden Care

By this time of year, your plants could be looking tired and awful. Although the heat may make working in the garden a daunting prospect, whether you have a few acres or a few potted plants, a little love this month will keep your plants looking nice until the Fall, when the days start getting shorter and the garden slows down.

Deadhead:  Cutting off the spent blooms on your plants will tell them to make new ones. If you have roses and it’s late in the month, you can give them a mid-season pick-me-up by snipping back about a quarter of the summer’s growth.  Remove all of the dead or diseased foliage to stop problems from spreading.

Come on, you know you have to:  Pick up all of the leaf litter around your plants and pull any weeds out by the roots. Put the debris into containers and clean up the area to keep weed seeds, pests and diseases from going back into the ground and into your plants. Make sure you put rose cuttings in a hard-sided trash can, not a plastic bag.

Manage diseases and pests:  Spraying the foliage regularly with a strong blast of water and keeping your plants well hydrated is your easiest and cheapest approach to disease and pest management. When the weather gets hot, spider mites often show up. Check for tiny spider webs and small dark spots. Pesticides are not recommended for treating spider mites and can make them worse. Consider buying beneficial insects like ladybugs, preying mantis or green lacewings to control common garden pests.

Fertilize:  As long as the day’s high temperature is under 85°F (29°C), you can continue the regular feeding of your plants. Use according to the manufacturer’s directions for the usual N-P-K mix, and don’t forget to give your plants iron, too. Feed the foliage as well as the roots by pouring the fertilizer over the whole plant.  You can overfeed plants nitrogen, though, so if you notice odd or burnt-looking foliage or flowers, water thoroughly and skip a couple of cycles of the fertilizing program.

Mulch:  The last step is to till a layer of fresh mulch into the clean, fertilized soil. Deposit some mulch and, using a claw-type tool, break up the surface of the soil and mix it in with the mulch, keeping it away from the main stems of the plants. Top off with more mulch, to bring the total coverage to 3” (8 cm).  This will feed the soil, keep the roots of your plants cooler, hold moisture longer, it will keep the weeds down, and it looks nice.

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