Mother Nature has been good to our gardens this year. She has provided respectable rain, which all plants thrive on.
By Chris Cohan
Mother Nature has been good to our gardens this year. She has provided respectable rain, which all plants thrive on. Regular soaking rain, deep to root systems, combined with longer days of sunshine, ensures healthy plants.
So while your gardens may have been looking grand, remember that once the hot, dry days of summer arrive to stay, many plants lose their luster. Stressed plants flower less and are more susceptible to infection. Make sure all of your in-ground plants are mulched to retain moisture and keep down weeds.
Your main goal as a gardener is to reduce plant stress as much as you can. Start by watering early in the morning. Never water at night. Keep water off the flowers and the foliage. Hanging baskets and containers, depending on their size, need to be checked for water daily; double or triple watering may be required on a hot summer day. Plants in full sun require more water than those in shade.
Sprinkler systems operating during the day only act as a magnifying glass, burning plants. Set your sprinklers to go on early in the morning to ensure the thirsty ground and roots absorb the water. Also, it is better to sprinkle less often — but longer — to help develop a deep lawn root system.
With the long holiday weekend behind us, it’s time to stop grilling and get gardening. Begin by evaluating your garden for gaps. Fill with annuals that bloom all summer, some well into fall. Right now is the time to take advantage of sales at local garden centers. Grab a bunch of affordable annuals and perennials.
With the first flush of rose bloom over, summer pruning is important to ensure continuous flowering. Spent roses should be cut back on the stem to the first leaflet of five. Hybrid Teas, English, and Antique roses should be cut back individually, stem by stem. Deadhead Floribundas regularly. To double the flower power of shrub roses, Meidilands, and Miniatures, use a hedge shear and cut back by one-third. With Climbers, remove shoots going in the wrong direction. Feed roses now. Add a tablespoon of baking soda or Epsom salts to reduce fungal growth. Water well and then weed to your heart’s desire.
Cut back asters by one-third and Montauk daisies by half. Shear faded catmint flowers; show no mercy to wisteria vines growing every which way, and keep deadheading daylilies, like Stella D’oro, to stimulate continued flowering.
Back to watering… Everything, especially shrubs and trees, needs sufficient water, especially those new evergreens you planted to prevent that neighbor from seeing or speaking to you. If you haven’t cut back your forsythia, do so now. Now is also your last chance to prune the lilacs. Clip off all the dead flowers back to the developing buds. Also, remove a few older lilac stalks to stimulate new growth. There is still time to divide and transplant Coral Bells, Hakonechloa, other small grasses, Liriope, and that never-say-die golden groundcover, Creeping Jenny.
July is tough on lawns, so water well, saturating to a depth of six inches. Cut your lawn to a height of three and one-half inches. Beetles lay eggs in turf during July and August, re-infesting lawns with a new crop of grubs, which enjoy devouring the roots. Milky Spore Grub Control and nematodes can still be added.
These chores should help trim a few of those BBQ pounds off, and, once completed, earn you the chance to lie in your newly pristine backyard, sip a few cool drinks, and ponder your next garden move.