Summer is a time to trim back on many of our backbreaking physical activities and enjoy and gather many of the fruits of the gardening labor.

This season’s hot, dry weather has slowed down plant growth and, in many cases, allowed some pests (e.g., fungal diseases) to get a foothold with the high humidity weather. While our “lazy hazy crazy days of summer” let us relax and enjoy our yard and garden endeavors, there are some mid-summer outdoor chores that will make an even stronger gardening experience.

Consider some precautions. It is now the height of the summer, and the sun is hot and the weather is steamy. Try to schedule your yard and garden work for early in the day or very late in the afternoon or early evening. Set a definite time limit for working on gardening tasks, usually no longer than an hour. 

As you get ready for mid-summer gardening activities, prepare by taking a large container of an icy, non-alcoholic beverage ( may be ice water ). With an ample application of sunscreen (and insect repellent, if necessary), and topped off with a wide-brimmed garden hat.

Watering is one of the most important mid-summer garden jobs to maintain strong, healthy plants. Vegetable gardens, most flowering plants, and lawns need about one inch of water every week. Plants need a real soaking, so be sure to water thoroughly and deeply each time you water.

The soil should be moist at least 3 – 4 inches deep to make sure that the needed water is reaching the root zone. Carry a trowel with you and actually observe how deep the water has penetrated. Deep watering will encourage the plants’ roots to grow deeper where there is less chance that the soil will dry out. This type of root system will better anchor the plant. To economize on the amount of watering, try to water early in the morning for less evaporation and water at the soil level where it is needed most. Research has shown that the water waste is about 50 percent, due to evaporation when spray irrigation techniques are used.

If watering is important to your in-ground plants, it is twice as important for your containers! These hanging baskets and container grown plants have air moving around them constantly and give off much water vapor. The root systems, soil, and moisture are very limited by the container.

Don’t just touch the soil surface; push your finger an inch or two into the growing media. It is not unusual for containers to need daily watering and, in some cases, depending on the plant type and structure, often twice a day in extreme hot weather conditions. Water thoroughly until liquid drips from the drain hole, but do not let the water sit in the container’s tray.

As you tour your yard, take special note of your trees and shrubs, especially if they’ve been planted within the past two or three years. They are still establishing themselves and would benefit from a thorough soaking at the rate of 1 inch per week. Add or re-establish mulch to help control water evaporation and weed control. If weeds are present, remove them now before they seed to create even more future problems. Remember that weeds compete for valuable water and nutrients.

It is easy to identify dead or diseased branches on trees and shrubs. Summer is a good time to prune out these branches. Use caution, however, in pruning spring/early summer flowering shrubs that may have already set bud for next year’s flowers.

In your flower garden, keep “deadheading” perennials to encourage a second flush of flowering, unless you’re collecting seeds. Consider “dead leafing” for a neater appearance. If you notice rampant or irregular growth, shape the plant with pruners. If some of the earlier perennials have gone dormant, trim to a neat appearance. Remove any yellow or brown spring flowering bulb foliage. Keep a watchful eye on pests such as aphids, spider mites, or tarnished plant bugs that may be tempted to take advantage of weather-stressed plants.

Once your flower garden is in full swing, you may wish to take garden notes or photographs for future changes. Perhaps there’s a larger perennial that’s competing visually with a lower growing plant; maybe there is a gap that could provide a focal point with the right plant. Make a list and take it to a local garden center or nursery to find contenders to enhance your summer garden. Don’t forget the possibility of adding summer flowering bulbs such as crocosmia, gladiolus, caladium, or cannas to your mixed garden bed. It’s too late to plant these beauties this season, but these garden notes should serve as planting reminders for the beginning of the next growing season.

In the vegetable and fruit garden, remove any weeds before they go to seed. Remove and compost any plant parts that remain after the crop has been harvested, such as pea vines. Decide if you want to plant a fall crop and begin preparing the soil. Areas that will remain idle for the rest of the season should be sowed with a cover crop such as rye or buckwheat. This will not only build up soil nutrients, but also discourage the growth of weeds.

If you’ve moved your houseplants out onto the porch or gazebo for their summer vacation, it is important to note that they’re not on autopilot. Be sure to watch for insect or disease damage and treat accordingly. This season’s warmer and drier weather means it will be necessary to water and/or mist your houseplants more often.

It seems as though the jobs in the garden never end. In my garden there is always something to dig, trim, stir, pick or pull. Mid-summer does provide us, however, with a midday when it is too hot for this work and gives us an opportunity to sit back and appreciate our yards and gardens.

Source & Courtesy : Post in Springville Journal By Leo Lubke , a Master Gardener and member of the Garden Writers of Association.

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