These hot days of Summer, which officially started this week, may be tempting us to sit back and simply enjoy what we planted in spring. But this is the time when we must turn our attentions to the real aspects of gardening: tending to plants and reaping their rewards. (This week the first squashes were picked and grilled to the delight of our summer palates!) Glumly, we also entering our gardens' peak pest and problem season. That means it is time to restart and refuel our gardening "engines" with these simple summer tasks every gardener should focus on within the next 30 days.
30 gardening tips that keep a summer garden growing:
1. Stay cool - Work outside when it's less hot and humid: in the early morning, late afternoon, and evening.
2. Hand water - Give a helping hand to new trees and shrubs planted this spring. In addition to the drip irrigation most trees and shrubs are on, new plants appreciate supplemental hand watering once a week until the monsoons arrive in July.
3. Mulch - Check mulch layers and reapply over bare spots before those areas are homesteaded by new weeds.
4. Check leaves – A plant's leaf damage is a good indicator of nutrient deficiency. These issues only become worse as summer heat progresses.
5. Pinch and deadhead - This is a must-do task if flowers are to be kept blooming all season long.
6. Cut back - Tall perennial bloomers like asters, monarda, Helianthus, and mums should be cut back to make them stockier, to fill with flower buds, and so they don't bloom too early.
7. Remove - Pull out cool season crops like spinach that bolt into flower because of the heat.
8. Plant - Fill in empty spaces with succession plantings of summer greens like kale, chard, and lettuce. Also plant vegetables that like being planted during hot weather: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
9. Bush beans - After harvesting, plant new succession crops at two-week intervals.
10. Tomato plants - Stake them as they grow. Pinch out suckers.
11. Asparagus and rhubarb - These two plants should not be harvested in summer. Let them build up reserves for next season.
12. Corn - To prevent earworms, put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks within a week after they appear.
13. Berries - Protect fruits with nets, row covers, or scare tape.
14. Harvest - Vegetables like squash, beans, and tomatoes should be checked daily.
15. Wisteria can - Once they finish blooming prune the vines to keep them a manageable size.
16. Evergreens - Pine, spruce, and cedar should be pruned back as soon as new growth starts to turn a dark green or blue.
17. Compost – That simmering pile of future plant nutrients should be turned to take advantage of the summer heat.
18. June Fruit Drop - This is standard on fruit trees. They are thinning fruit to a manageable crop size. Clean up any fallen fruit.
19. Insects love summer - Be vigilant! Walk through the gardens checking both sides of leaves for eggs and nymphs. Check trees for nests of bagworms.
21. Lawns - Allow lawns to grow taller. Set the mower blade higher so grass has a chance to shade the soil and stay cooler.
22. Water - Make sure plants stay hydrated. Look for leaves that are wilting, or that show their undersides in the heat of the day. Water by hand if needed, or bump up your irrigation and water longer for each cycle. Watters water guide.
23.Feed - The entire landscape should be fed before summer rains arrive. Within the next 30 days feed plants with my 'All Purpose Plant Food' 7-4-4.
24. Houseplants - After many months of breathing indoor air, it's like their summer vacation when moved outside.
25. Birds - Whether in a birdbath or shallow dishes placed around the garden, provide the fresh water essential to birds' survival.
26 through 30 – OK, so the article isn't long enough for 30 tips. But I like the look of "30 for 30", so the title remains as is!
Garden classes have been posted to the website and start Saturday, July 8th with “Containers that Bloom like Crazy!”. If you have read this far, take special notice of the class on July 15 “Attract Birds, Bees & Butterflies”. Classes will be held at 9:30 am each Saturday through summer. Take a look at the entire class schedule here.
Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners with their summer “To-Do List” here at Watters Garden Center.