Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.
Many gardeners can't find caretaker for their container gardens while on vacation. Make your own. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water. Run strips of cotton or old stockings from the water to the soil in the pots. The water moves from the bucket through the wick to keep the soil moist. Test the system before leaving on your trip.
Proper watering and mulch is the best care you can provide trees and shrubs. Water new plantings thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist. And remember to water established trees and shrubs thoroughly during extended drought. Mulch the soil with shredded bark, woodchips or other organic materials. Start by edging the area to be mulched. Then cut the grass inside the area short. Cover the short grass with several layers of newspaper or cardboard and then top it off with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
Everything is growing beyond your expectations. Stake tall dahlias to prevent flopping. Remove side buds if you are looking for one large, knock your sock off, bloom per stem. Disbudding reduces the number of flowers but increases their individual size. Going for quantity – then leave all the buds in tact. You will have lots of small flowers. Both methods create a colorful display.
Bring a bit of the flower garden indoors. Harvest flowers early in the morning or early evening when they are full of moisture. Recut the stems just prior to placing in the vase. Or better yet – take a bucket of water into the garden. Place cut flowers in the water as you collect more blossoms for your arrangements. This keeps the flowers fresh until they reach their final destination – a beautiful vase indoors.
Tired of silvermound artemisia flopping open in mid summer? Keep it looking good with a bit of pruning. Cut the plant back about halfway as it starts to bloom. This encourages fresh new growth that is less prone to opening in the center.
No the neighborhood kids have not been spitting on your plants. The culprit is spittlebug. It sucks plant juices, secretes the excess and then uses its back legs as a bellows to froth up the secretion into a frothy covering. Their numbers are usually small and the damage is not worth treating. Worried gardeners can wipe off the insects or spot treat with insecticidal soap.
Early blooming perennials benefit from a little mid-summer care. Prune back the plants after bloom. Sprinkle a little low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite, around the base of the plants. Water as needed and watch the plants recover. Some will put on a second floral display – a great reward for such little effort.
The hot dry weather of summer is great for spider mites. These pests suck plant juices causing leaves to wilt, discolor and even dry. Knock these offenders off your plants with a strong blast of water from the garden hose. If this is not enough step up the control with Neem or insecticidal soap. You may need several applications for big populations. As the weather cools and natural predators move in the spider mite populations will begin to decline.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
It seems that summer is always well on its way before I finish planting my garden. Fortunately there is still plenty of time to plant vegetables. I saved one of my raised beds in the Harvest for the Hungry garden for late planting. I am filling it with short season crops like beans, carrots, chard, peas, beets and radishes. They have plenty of time to germinate, grow and produce before the first fall frost.
Not sure if there is enough time to plant your favorite vegetable? Check the back of the seed packet for the number of days from planting and harvest. Compare that with the frost free days (about 90) left in our growing season. You may be surprised how much planting you can squeeze into our short season.
Visit your garden daily and keep harvesting. Regular harvesting keeps the plants producing – that means more produce for your efforts. Picking regularly also reduces the troublesome pests that move in to help you eat the harvest. Pick summer squash when it is 5 to 8 inches long and patty pan types when 3" in diameter.
Raspberries are ripe and ready to pick when fully colored and the fruit easily pulls away from the core. Adapt a gallon milk jug to make picking easier. Cut away the top leaving the handle in tact. Tie it around your waist so you have two hands free for picking. Pile the raspberries in thin layers to avoid crushing. Wash right before use to extend their storage life.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Aphids, also called plant lice feed on a wide range of plants including trees and shrubs. Healthy plants can tolerate the damage. And if you wait, nature may just handle the problem for you. Heavy rains often reduce the numbers to a tolerable level. Watch and wait for ladybugs (really a beetle) and lacewings. These insects eat the aphids keeping them under control. Remember insecticides kill the good guys along with the bad. Plus, I find I can get kids interested in the garden by showing them the bugs. An aphid-eating ladybug is much more entertaining than the spirea it is visiting.
Renew mulch around the base of trees and shrubs. A 2 to 3 inch layer of bark or woodchips will conserve moisture, reduce weeds, protect the stems from weedwhips and mowers and best of all – eliminate the need to hand trim. Keep the mulch away from the tree trunk and don't bury the stems of shrubs and perennials. Maintain a 2 to 3 inch layer for best results.
Enjoy roses indoors and out. Harvesting roses by cutting a long stem back to at least first 5 leaflet leaf. The new stems that sprout from this bigger cut will be thicker and sturdier. And while cutting you may notice some holes and damage to the leaves. The rose slugs were out in force this year but are almost done feeding. These sawfly larvae are green with brown head. Pick any you find or just wait for the feeding to subside. If you decide to use an insecticide be aware that they can kill the all important bees that are also enjoying the roses.
Lawns and Groundcovers
The hot dry days of summer are hard on the lawns. Many gardeners allow them to go dormant. Once the cooler weather and rains return the lawns will begin to green up and grow. But once dormant leave it that way until the rains return or you can keep watering throughout the drought.
Water lawns early in the day to conserve moisture and reduce the risk of disease. Apply enough water to moisten the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. Wait until the top few inches are crumbling and moist before watering again. Thorough and less frequent watering will result in deeper more drought resistant grass.
Don't use a weed killer in the summer. It can damage drought stressed lawns. As the treated weeds die they leave an opening in the lawn that is usually filled by another weed not the summer stressed grass.
Tips for Indoor Plants
Monitor your houseplants whether spending the summer indoors or out. Wipe the dust off the leaves to keep the plants clean and remove any pests.
If your hibiscus has not started blooming take a good look at your care. Plants pruned after February may not bloom until fall or winter. Try nudging the plant into bloom. Fertilize with a flowering plant fertilizer. These are high in phosphorous that encourages flowering. And be patient – you may not have flowers this summer but I bet you will be thrilled with those that brighten up the dreary indoors for winter.
ASK MELINDA - Get immediate answers to your gardening questions! Check out my searchable database of more than 30 years of questions and answers, podcasts and videos.
LANDSCAPE MAKEOVER IDEAS - Check out my landscape makeover photo gallery to get ideas on making over your yard and then post photos of your accomplishments!
MELINDA'S GARDEN MOMENT VIDEOS - In need of more gardening tips that can visually walk you through the process? Watch online streaming video of my nationally-syndicated gardening videos.
PODCASTS - Listen to my gardening podcasts