Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer To-Do List

Summer is the time to enjoy the beach, pool, the family's yard, vacation and gardening.
Planted containers compliment the pool's shape and surrounding architecture

 Harvesting vegetables from the garden, cutting flowers to be displayed on the patio table, and flavoring a grilled dinner with herbs plucked from just outside the kitchen are terrific rewards for all the time spent planting and tending the garden. Here are a few tips to keep plants growing through the rest of summer.

Now is the time to mow lawns high and let the grass clippings lie.
Lawns are an important part of our landscape

 The heat will decompose the clippings fast, adding nutrients to the lawn. Longer grass shades the roots, keeping the sun from drying them out too fast. And, best of all, the longer blades inhibit weed growth. We recommend a 3" mowing height for most lawns in our area.
If weeds, especially crabgrass, are a problem, apply Crab-E-Rad now. Read label directions carefully for best results.
Wait until fall to feed the lawn. Most of our lawns contain cool-season grasses which may be dormant now, but will green up with autumn's cooler temperatures.

Flower beds benefit from a light application of slow release fertilizer. Organic gardeners can use Flower-Tone or Dr. Earth's Rose and Flower food. I might use Osmocote in my flower beds. It is a timed release fertilizer that lasts for up to 4 months. Osmocote is great for plants in containers too, though we recommend using a water-soluble food also to keep plants healthy and blooming.

Formal planting beds containing beautiful summer begonias

Now is a good time to cut back some annual and perennials that may have spent blooms. Pinching and deadheading old blooms encourages new growth and gives plants a fresh, new look.

Weeds aren't just ugly, they take valuable resources away from other plants. Remove them to keep the garden looking good. Use a bark mulch or compost over the soil to keep weeds out and moisture in. Maximum depth should be about 2 inches. Be careful not to pull mulch all the way up to a plant's stem for best results. Trees and shrubs benefit from an application of mulch over their roots as well. In addition to the aforementioned reasons, mulch can protect tree bark from the dreaded weedeater disease. String trimmers do a lot of damage to trees and shrubs this time of year; adding a protective border of mulch can be very useful.

Replant favorite vegetables from seed to keep the garden growing. Beans, and herbs like cilantro and dill, can be planted 2 weeks apart for a progressive harvest.
Billy's beans are harvest ready!

Basil and other herbs create a beautiful border.

 For tomatoes and peppers that continue to produce, provide a feeding of you favorite fertilizer to keep the vegetables coming. Plant cole crops, like broccoli, kale and cabbage around August 1 for fall harvest.

The water garden has tasks that should be completed to keep the pond healthy. Plants like water lilies and marginals should be fed one last time before fall.

Gorgeous water lily flowers

 Keep the plants cleaned up and follow-up with a bacteria to keep sludge from building up on the bottom of the pond. Fish should be getting fed daily and transitioned to cool weather food by mid-September. And, for those using barley straw for algae control, now is the time for a second batch.

Monitor the garden for pests and diseases and treat as necessary. A healthy garden, properly spaced, fed and maintained, will have a natural ecosystem of beneficial insects that will keep the bad guys away.

More than anything this summer, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Gardening is a wonderful way to enjoy each season.