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.
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
Remove any spotted, blotchy, and discolored leaves as soon as they are discovered. Several fungal diseases can damage perennials and annuals. Sanitation is the best way to control and reduce the spread of disease. Monitor the garden for insects, and minimize your use of pesticides. The fewer pesticides used, the greater number of beneficial insects you will find.
Thin bee balm, garden phlox and other overgrown perennials subject to mildew and leaf spot diseases. Remove one-third of the stems.
Pinch back perennials to control height or delay bloom. Keep mums and asters 6 inches tall through the end of the month.
Cut back common bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) after last flush of flowers, but before the leaves start to yellow. This encourages fresh new growth so you will have green foliage for the remainder of the season. If you miss this opportunity, remove yellow foliage to ground level and let surrounding plants mask the bare spot left in the garden. Consider adding fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) for extended bloom and good looking foliage all season long.
Dig and divide overgrown Siberian iris (Iris siberica) when they finish blooming. Poor flowering, dead centers, and floppy growth indicate its time to dig and divide. Lift the clump out of the soil. Cut into 4, 6 or 8 segments, discarding the dead center. You can replant one of the divisions in the same location. Add organic matter to the soil prior to planting. Plant the other divisions in other gardens or trade with friends and family.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
As tomato plants mature, remove the lowest four inches of foliage. Pruning off the lower leaves prevents the spread of fungal diseases that may be in the soil, such as Early Blight. As the season moves on, check your tomatoes for yellowing or brown spots on the leaves. These are symptoms of Early Blight. Removal and disposal of these leaves will prevent the spread of the disease. Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or herbicide-free grass clippings and be sure to water tomatoes at their base. Mulch the soil to reduce the risk of soil borne fungal spores splashing onto and infecting the plants.
Pick radishes when the roots are full size. Pull when the soil is moist to avoid damaging the tender roots or ending up with just a hand full of green leaves with no root attached. The leaves can also be used to spice up salads.
Harvest green onions when the leaves are 6 inches tall. Eat them fresh, use in salads or add to omelets or other cooked dishes. Allow the remaining onions to develop into full size bulbs for a fall harvest.
Watch for squash vine borer. This orange and black day-flying moth lays its eggs at the base of vine crops. Remove and smash any that are found. Check for sawdust-like material and holes at the base of the plant. This means the borers have entered the stem and are causing damage. Slice the stem lengthwise and kill any borers you find. Bury this portion of the stem and keep the soil moist. The stem often develops new roots. Reduce damage with three weekly applications of insecticide labeled for this pest when the plants start vining or the adults are out laying eggs. Spray only at the base of the plant to avoid harming bees and other desirable insects. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before using.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
As the temperatures warm, newly planted trees and shrubs may need a bit more attention. Make sure the root ball and surrounding soil is moist, but not soggy. Water thoroughly enough to moisten the top 12 inches and whenever the top 3 to 4 inches are crumbly and moist. Mulching with shredded bark or woodchips will help conserve moisture, discourage weeds and get your plants off to a good start.
Deadhead repeat blooming and hybrid tea roses for a neater appearance and increase bloom. Remove only individual flowers within the clusters as they fade. Once all the flowers in the cluster have finished blooming, prune back the flowering stem to the first 5-leaflet leaf.
Start watching for Japanese beetles. These small, metallic green beetles feed on over 300 species of plants. The beetles skeletonize the leaves by eating the leaf tissue and leaving the veins intact. The Japanese beetle population is growing and additional outbreaks are appearing throughout the states. Stressed trees or those repeatedly defoliated by Japanese beetles would benefit from treatment. Use an insecticide labeled for use on trees to control this beetle. Consult a tree care professional for treatment of large trees.
Lawns and Groundcovers
Check winter creeper groundcover and other euonymus plantings for scale. These insects look like flecks of paint on the leaves and stems of the plants. Repeated attacks and large populations can weaken and even kill plantings. Treat infested plants with insecticidal soap or a light weight horticulture oil when the Japanese tree lilacs are in bloom. The bloom time and egg hatch coincide, making this tree the perfect reminder. Repeat with two more applications 10 to 12 days apart. If the Japanese tree lilacs are finished blooming, do the follow up treatments and mark your calendar for next year as a reminder.
Spreading junipers suffering from individual twig death may be infested with phomopsis blight. Control this disease with proper pruning and sanitation. Remove infected branches 9 inches below the canker (sunken area on the branches). Disinfect tools with a one-part bleach to nine-part water solution or rubbing alcohol between cuts.
Keep your grass looking good, healthy and more drought-tolerant by using a sharp mower blade. A sharp blade makes a clean up that looks better and closes faster. Your grass will be less susceptible to disease, drought and heat stress. A sharp blade also saves gas. One study found cutting the grass with a sharp blade resulted in as much as a 20% fuel savings.
Tips for Indoor Plants
The increased sunlight and better growing conditions outdoors can affect the growing conditions indoors. Adjust your watering schedule to compensate for the increased sunlight outdoors and affects of air conditioning on your indoor plants. Water houseplants thoroughly so the excess runs out the bottom of the container. Pour off excess or fill the plant saucer with pebbles so the water collects in the pebbles and the pot rests above the water. Water whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist.
Houseplants summering outdoors will need to be checked daily. Extend the time between waterings with a few simple tricks. Sink the pots into the garden. The soil insulates the pot so the soil dries more slowly and you need to water less often. Place an old nylon stocking over the pot (prior to burying) to help keep out some of the soil dwelling insects. Or double pot your plants. Set the houseplant inside a larger pot with drainage holes. Fill the bottom of the outer pot with pebbles to elevate the houseplant to the proper height. Set the potted houseplant on the pebbles inside the larger container. Fill voids with sphagnum moss or mulch for added insulation. This will slow drying and extend the time between watering.
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