Summer Gardening Tips from Geri
I use compost as a top dressing of my gardens each spring, rather than bark mulch. It enriches the soil providing nutrients and improves the ability of the soil to retain water. I usually save some so that I can add it around the plants in my vegetable garden as they grow. It helps with weeds and moisture retention.
As my tulip, crocus, and other spring bulb leaves wither and die I remove them and plant annuals – zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, and other annuals to brighten up the flowerbeds. This allows me to cut flowers to bring in the house all summer. Also having beds with plants close together cuts down on the weeds and time I spend weeding!
Daffodil leaves take much longer for their leaves to fade and stop nourishing the bulbs, so I either use a couple of their long leaves to wrap around a good handful of leaves to keep them from flopping all over, or place a small stake near the clump of leaves and use green plastic covered wire to tie the leaves up to the stake. Some gardeners cut the leaves down to about 6-8 inches after they are done blooming to allow some continued nourishing of the bulbs. But I like to leave as much green leaves as possible and have been rewarded with an increasing number of daffodils each spring.
The time to prune your flowering trees and shrubs to improve their shape or limit growth is right after they have bloomed. If you wait until later, you will be cutting off next year’s buds. If your lilac is getting old, not blooming or only blooming way up at the top, you should cut out no more than 1/3 of the oldest trunks close to the ground. You can repeat this each of the next few years, only taking out no more than 1/3 each year.
After they finish blooming is a good time to dig up and divide iris clumps, leave 2 fans of leaves with each new planting and work some compost into the soil before planting.
Don’t mow your grass too short. Mow leaving it 3-4 inches high. This will allow the grass to grow stronger and have a better root system. It also shades the soil better so it doesn’t dry out as quickly. If you leave the clippings on the grass, they quickly decompose and add nutrients so you don’t need to fertilize as much. Never put grass clippings in the pond, they will add nutrients to encourage algal blooms.
Consider reducing your lawn by planting a pollinator garden or some native shrubs and perennials, especially near the waters edge to reduce runoff.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, set it to start watering very early in the morning. There is usually less wind and heat to evaporate the water and your grass and plants will have time to dry out during the day to discourage fungal diseases, powdery mildew and mold. It is better to water for a longer period of time only once or twice a week. You can put out an empty pet food can to measure how much water you are delivering and adjust your timing so you are putting down 1/2 inch or so. Adjust sprinkler heads so they don’t water your driveway or the road and runoff to street drains, wasting water and contributing to runoff contamination.
For tomatoes it is best to hand water your plants. Again do it early in the day, if possible, and direct the water stream to the soil and roots, avoid getting the leaves wet. Only water when the top inch or so of ground is dry and then water deeply. Mulching your tomato plants with an inch of compost is very beneficial. Well-rotted compost is a wonderful fertilizer and improves your soil by adding organic matter, so important in our poor, sandy soil.
I save my eggshells all year in a container, when it is full I crush the shells by hand as small as I can. I sprinkle the tiny shell pieces 6 or more inches around plants that slugs and snails attack. They will not crawl across the sharp eggshell pieces.
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