By Geri Williams
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy”. Hopefully we will all be spending time in the coming months barbecuing and enjoying the company of friends and family in our backyards. Picking tasty fresh tomatoes, beans and squash that we’ve managed to keep from the critters. Daylilies, phlox, roses and daisies add jubilant colors, while sweet pepper bush and swamp azaleas around the ponds perfume the air.
Behind all this bounty and beauty is a talented stage manager – you – planting. watering, deadheading, weeding and mowing. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your gardens:
- Pinch most of the suckers off from the leaf joints of your tomatoes. This will produce larger fruits and give better air circulation to reduce disease.
- Similarly, cut chrysanthemums and large sedums back by one third to encourage bushier plants and more blooms. Don’t be afraid to remove buds, more will grow.
- When tomatoes, peppers and eggplants start to set fruit, give them some additional organic fertilizer, or better yet top dress with compost. This will also retain moisture and keep weeds down.
- To help prevent powdery mildew, thin crowded plants, especially garden phlox, water only in the morning and aim water at the roots not leaves.
- Pick green beans daily, and summer squashes when they are 5-6 inches long. The more you pick these vegetables the more they will produce.
- I use long- lasting, slow- release fertilizer (Osmacote) when planting annuals in planters and in borders, but if you didn’t, fertilize them every other week when watering to keep the blooms coming.
- Deadhead daisies, catmint, daylilies, and other perennials to keep them looking neat and encourage more blooms. Works for zinnias, cosmos and other annuals as well.
- Remove the side shoots from dahlias’ main stems to force the energy into producing larger blooms.
- If you find empty spots in your flower gardens where the rabbits and/or deer nibbled or spring ephemerals have disappeared, you can usually find some annuals to add some color at Dutchy’s on Rt. 3, or Morrisons.
- As you harvest lettuce, peas, and other early season crops, you can sow broccoli, radish, lettuce and spinach seeds in the empty space for fall crops.
- Drain and clean your birdbaths, and replenish with clean water at least twice a week. Better for the birds and keeps mosquito larvae from hatching.
- Remember to keep watering newly planted trees and shrubs; they should get 1 ½ inch of water/week until well established.
- Water your lawn only in the morning. Less frequent deep irrigation is much better than frequent sprinkles. You really only need to water your lawn when footprints remain for a few minutes after you walk on it.
- Keep your lawn mower blade sharp and never cut more than 1/3 of the grass height at one time.
- Don’t spread fertilizer within 100 ft. of the pond edge or streams, and not before a rainstorm is predicted. Some of the fertilizer may run off into the pond.
- Finally, pick some of those beautiful flowers in the morning, so they’ll last longer in the vase. Bring them into your home and enjoy!