Unlike us, our gardens can’t run for the cover of air conditioning on scorching summer days. For those of you who are truly committed to your gardens, we salute you!
To keep plants perky, focus on these five key factors, and then consult our basic tips to find out when your plants have met their match – or just need a little extra love.
Perennials: Most perennials bloom for a four- to eight-week period, but deadheading (pruning dead flowers) can help promote a second set of blooms. Since a plant’s goal is to produce more seeds, pruning dying flowers sends it the signal to grow more.
Annuals: A majority of annuals bloom all season long, but for those that don’t self-clean, deadheading can help grow new blooms. If your annuals start to look less than appealing, cut them back 4 to 6 inches to encourage new growth that’s compact, fresh and green.
For an easy trick to see if your plants are thirsty, stick your finger in the soil to the middle joint. If it’s wet or damp, forego watering. As you’re tending to container plants, pick them up when they’ve been watered and when they’re dry. You’ll start to notice the difference in weight, which, over time, can help you to determine when they need to be watered.
In the full summer sun, container plants may need to be watered twice a day. If it’s hard to find the time, move them to a protected area. For trees and shrubs, use the previously mentioned soil-testing trick. With experience, you’ll start to get a feel for how often plants should be watered.
Water plants during the early morning and early afternoon, as wet foliage at night can lead to mold and mildew, so it’s important to give plants time to dry. However, if given the choice of wilted plants in the evening or not watering – water. Just be careful to keep the foliage dry.
Watering from the air can result in rapid evaporation, so water from the soil line. Weeper hoses are useful since they help water to directly seep to the roots. Lay them on the ground next to plants, and set your timer for about an hour.
Container plants lose nutrients quickly due to frequent watering during the summer, so fertilize as often as every day, but at least once a week. Try using half of what the fertilizer calls for, since over fertilizing can cause plants stress.
Tip: You should use gloves when using fertilizer or mulching. But you should also be sure you wash your hands afterward. We’ve got some options that won’t dry out your skin.
It isn’t too late to mulch! If you have less than 2 to 4 inches of mulch in your garden beds, consider mulching to help conserve water and reduce weeds. Weeds steal water and nutrients from your soil, so it’s important to keep them at bay. When mulching, we prefer organic mulches mixed with our outdoor and kitchen composts.
5. Pest Control
Embrace good bugs like ladybugs, bees, praying mantises and spiders while avoiding unwanted bugs like aphids or Japanese beetles. Placing birdhouses, birdbaths and birdfeeders throughout your yard attracts birds that control populations of unwanted insects, not to mention gives you lovely birdsongs throughout the day.
As far as pesticides go, match to your pest, and always start with the least harmful formula first. Our simple, gentle, do-it-yourself pesticide is a good start: Mix 1 tablespoon of cooking oil with a generous squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Add water, and test a spot on your plant before going to town. When spraying, be sure to get the back of leaves since they’re popular hiding spots for pests.
When is it Time to Throw in the Towel?
When assessing whether a plant has met its match or just needs a little extra love, keep these basics in mind:
- Grass goes dormant without water in the heat, so it’s best to leave it alone.
- If a tree’s twig snaps when you bend it, it’s a sign the branch, and possibly the rest of the plant, is dead. Take a small branch off and scrape it. If it has some green, it’s likely alive.
- When annuals have browned, it’s time to pull them out.
- If conifers lose their needles, they won’t come back.
Do you know of a trick we didn’t mention? Share it with the community by leaving a comment below.