Summer gardening guide - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Summer gardening guide

&copy Cade Martin / CDC / Dawn Arlotta © Cade Martin / CDC / Dawn Arlotta

By Coletta Teske

Summer is one of the busiest times in the garden. During these warm months, a gardener will be kept busy mowing the lawn, planting vegetables, pruning shrubs and starting a host of new gardening projects. Summer is the time to freshen up the garden, pay careful attention to maintenance and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Mulching, Composting and Watering

After the spring cleaning in the garden has been finished, it's time to give flowerbeds a fresh, new look. Start by trimming the edges of flowerbeds. If the flowerbeds are not lined with an edging, give the grass a sharp edge to help define the flowerbeds. If there is edging, trim the grass so that it is not growing up along the edging.

Once the edges of the flowerbeds have been cleaned up, it is time to add compost to the soil and spread new mulch. Compost can be used as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. To amend the soil with compost, spread a one inch layer of compost on top of the soil and gently work the compost in the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. After the compost has been worked into the soil, top it off with a 2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch prevents the growth of weeds and retains moisture in the soil. Also, using organic mulch provides nutrients to the plants. When spreading mulch, avoid placing the mulch within a couple of inches of plant and tree trunks.

During the heat of the summer, plants require regular water during those periods of no rain. As a general rule, plants need about an inch of water each week. When watering plants, water the soil around the roots. Avoid getting water on the foliage to prevent fungal and leaf spot diseases. Also remember to keep water in the birdbath so that birds and other small animals will have a place to get a drink. Here are a few more tips to ensure that plants receive the right amount of water:

--Understand each plant's water needs. This information can be found on the label that came with the plant or look for online resources.

--If the yard is watered with a sprinkler, water in the early morning so that the foliage dries as the day gets warmer.

--Plants that are irrigated with a drip system should be watered in the evening so that the water is absorbed into the soil.

--Flowerbeds that do not retain water can be amended with compost to increase the soil's water retention qualities.

Caring for Flowering Plants

Roses, perennials and annuals require constant care during the summer. These plants should be kept weed free and well watered. To keep flowering plants in bloom throughout the season, remove the dead flowers. Also keep an eye open for insect pests and diseases. Early summer is also a good time to divide many flowering bulbs such as iris and daffodils.

Many plants in the garden will need to be protected from birds and harmful insects. Berrybushes and fruit trees can become a favorite treat for neighborhood birds. Squash plants are susceptible to damaging insects that destroy the growing fruits. Here are a few ways to protect plants:

--Use a mesh cloth to cover strawberries, blueberries and other berry bushes from birds.

--Support limbs on fruit trees that are bearing heavy fruits.

--Insects such as aphids, scale and mealy bugs can be eliminated with a mixture of 2 tablespoon mild dish soap dissolved in a quart of water.

Mowing the Grass and Pruning Hedges

In the summertime, lawns should be kept a little higher that usual to prevent the grass from burning and to help retain moisture in the soil. For lawns that go dormant during the hot weather, plenty of water will be required to keep the grass green. Here are some more lawn tips:

--Do not let the grass dry out and then water it to make it turn green again. This stresses the grass and depletes it of nutrients.

--Mow the grass when dry to avoid spreading diseases.

--Mow the lawn between 2 and 2-1/2 inches tall for the best growth.

--Water the lawn in the early morning to conserve water.

--Wait until late summer to fertilize, seed, thatch and apply weed killers.

Hedges require care throughout the summer to maintain the proper shape and size. Also, regular pruning will ensure that flowering hedges will stay in bloom during the summer months.

Planting a Vegetable Garden

Summer is also a busy time in the vegetable garden. Spring was a busy time spent preparing the garden and planting a few early fruits and vegetables. During the summer, plant seeds on a continual basis to provide a constant supply of fresh carrots, radishes, lettuce and beets. In the late summer, it is time to plant cool weather crops that can be harvested in the fall. Spinach and Swiss chard can be planted and will provide a harvest into the late fall.

Here are a few tips to keep a vegetable garden healthy and productive throughout the summer:

--Be on the lookout for pests and diseases. Keep plants healthy by dealing with problems before they become too large.

--Harvest squash, okra, tomatoes and peppers frequently to encourage more fruit growth.

--Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe. Vegetables that are left in the garden deteriorate in quality, begin to rot and attract harmful pests.

Summer is a busy time in the garden. Make your summer more pleasant by organizing your gardening chores and taking time out to relax and enjoy your garden space.

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