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.
The heat of summer impacts the harvest. Extreme temperatures can cause pepper blossoms to drop and tomatoes blossoms to not develop into fruit. Patience is all you can do for peppers. Mulch the soil to keep the roots cool and moist and wait for cooler weather. You can do a bit more for tomatoes. Water them as needed, mulch to keep the roots cool and try Blossom Set spray to speed up fruit development. The tomatoes will be a bit smaller, but this product will help reluctant tomatoes set fruit in cold and hot weather.
Continue pulling weeds throughout the remainder of the season. These unwanted plants not only compete with your landscape plants, but also serve as host to many insects and diseases. Removing them can reduce the risk of other pests moving into the landscape. Eliminating weeds before they set seed prevents hundreds of new weeds growing in next year's garden.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
Look for bare areas for new plants or planting beds. Late summer is a great time for adding new plants or preparing the soil for new perennial gardens. Many garden centers now sell large annuals for those of us who lost a few plants, got a late start or need to add a bit of color to the landscape.
Check bee balm, zinnia and phlox for signs of powdery mildew. This fungal disease makes the leaves look like someone sprinkled them with baby powder. Make a note to replace susceptible plants with more mildew resistant varieties. If mildew is still a problem you may want to try using a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of lightweight horticulture oil OR insecticidal soap in a gallon of water. Cornell University found repeated (weekly) applications of this mix will control mildew. Further reduce problems on mildew-susceptible plants with proper siting. Grow plants in sufficient sunlight and with enough room for proper air circulation to reduce disease problems.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
You're starting to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labor. Check vine crops for squash vine borer. These orange and black day flying moths lay their eggs at the base of the zucchini and squash plants. The eggs hatch and the worm like larvae enters the stem and starts eating. Eventually they destroy the vascular system that carries the water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. Check the base of wilted plants for holes and sawdust-like debris called frass. If found, slice lengthwise along the stem (not all the way through) until the borer is found. Kill the borer and bury that portion of the cut stem with moist soil. With a bit of luck, the stem will root, the plant recovers, and you will still enjoy a harvest. Always remove and destroy (do not compost) infested vines in fall. Proper clean up will help reduce next season's population.
The tomatoes are finally turning red and you can't wait for the first flavorful bite. A look at the bottom reveals a big black spot known as blossom end rot. The problem is physiological (the plant's response to the environment) not caused by insects or disease. A calcium deficiency prevents the fruit from developing normally. Before you reach for the fertilizer, evaluate your watering practices. Most garden soils have sufficient calcium but a moisture imbalance prevents the plants from retrieving it from the soil. Water plants thoroughly and only when the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist. Mulch the soil surface with leaves, herbicide-free grass clippings or other organic matter to keep the soil evenly moist. Avoid root damage by staking plants at the time of planting and keeping hoes and cultivators away from the tomato roots. Fortunately you can eat the discolored fruit. Cut off the black bottom and enjoy the rest. The plant usually adjusts and the remainder of the harvest is fine.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Don't fertilize trees, shrubs and roses late in the growing season. Late season fertilization encourages late season growth that can be damaged or killed over winter. Do continue to water as needed throughout the remainder of the growing season.
Remove suckers that appear at the base, but not on the main stems of your grafted hybrid tea roses. Cut them off below the ground to reduce the chance of sprouting. These canes are growing from the hardy rootstock. They tend to be more vigorous and will often outgrow and mask the beauty of the desired rose. Continue to harvest or deadhead the flowers as well. Regular deadheading keeps the plants producing more flowers.
Lawns and Groundcovers
Pull weeds as they appear in your groundcover plantings. These unwelcome plants compete with groundcovers for water and nutrients. They also harbor insects and diseases that can infest the groundcover. Remove the weeds before they set seed to reduce the number of weeds you will need to pull next season.
Capture and destroy slugs eating hosta and other shade loving groundcovers. Set out shallow tins, sunk into the ground, and filled with beer. The slugs crawl inside and drown. Or place beer in an empty soda bottle and lay it on its side. This gives you a built-in cover to prevent the beer from being diluted by the rain. Tuck bottles under plants for a tidier look. Or try one of the newer more environmentally slug baits like Sluggo that uses iron phosphate to kill the slugs without harming pets and people. Read the label carefully to make sure you purchase the right product.
Tips for Indoor Plants
The hot days of early August can cause heat stress and may result in scorch on houseplants moved outdoors for summer. Move plants to a partially shaded area and keep the soil moist during times of extreme heat. You will need to water more often in hot, dry weather. Plants in small containers dry out faster than those in larger containers. Water plants growing in a soil-less mix often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Those growing in a soil-based mix should be allowed to dry slightly between watering.
Bromeliads are fun and beautiful plants that can brighten up any indoor garden. Add these members of the pineapple family to your collection. Purchase healthy, flowering Bromeliads from a garden center or florist. The flowers are so large and colorful you will think they're artificial. Grow them in bright locations indoors and keep the soil evenly moist. Water the soil until the excess runs out the drainage hole and water again as the top 2 inches begin to dry. Enjoy the Bromeliad flower—it can last for a month or more!
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