Landscaping

1. Powdery mildew disease is common on a number of ornamental plants in early summer. A white film develops on succulent, new growth on phlox, roses and crape myrtles, among others. Treatment includes pruning infected leaves, applying approved fungicides, and disposing of fallen leaves in winter. For sustainable plantings, select mildew-resistant varieties for the garden. Make it a habit to ask your garden center’s experts about disease-resistant cultivars when adding new plants to your landscape.

2. Tiny insects called thrips are a rose grower’s worst nightmare. The insects spoil otherwise perfect white-to-pastel-colored rose blossoms. A problem with thrips can occur quickly and is recognizable by the browning of the edges of rose petals. Shake an infested rose flower over a white piece of paper and you’ll see the slender, tan-colored insects. Thrips are difficult to control since they are mobile and elusive. Some rose growers use Orthene insecticide to alleviate the problem. Remove blighted rose flowers and discard them away from the garden by placing them in sealed trash bags.

3. Deadhead spent flowers before they set seeds. A plant expends unnecessary energy forming seeds that can be put to better use building roots or forming new flower stalks or foliage. Deadheading is common in perennial and bulb gardening, as well as in the edible garden. Iris and peonies are examples of spring blooming plants that can benefit.

4. Moles are a common concern in lawns as subterranean insects and earthworms surface with warm weather. While you may want the earthworms in your garden, it’s good to have a little help getting rid of root-eating, white grubs. For this reason, moles provide a great benefit to gardeners. The best advice for homeowners is to tolerate their surface runs and stamp them down. Castor oil-based mole repellents are available at garden shops. If all else fails, there are a few pest control companies that offer mole management services.

5. Water gardens are not carefree and usually need attention every few years when sediment builds up on the bottom. Draining the pond should not be an annual affair; and, it may be best to leave a pond alone to maintain clear water when fish are involved. Periodic skimming and netting will keep your water feature attractive and lessen the need for a major renovation. However, throughout the summer, prune aquatic plants both to control algae and for aesthetics. One rule of thumb regarding water plants: the pond surface should be 60% to 70% filled with plants, maximum.

6. If something’s eating your hostas or camellia shrubs, you’re probably dealing with voles (aka: pine mice). These mouse-like rodents are herbivores and reproduce prolifically in warm weather. Tunnels and golf ball-size holes around ornamental beds are telltale signs of their presence. Control them using mouse traps baited with peanut butter or a slice of apple.

7. Start thinking about fall color in the garden. Take a trip to the garden center for some great plant ideas. One striking ornamental grass is Pink Muhlygrass, Muhlenbergia capillaris. This grass is native to the southeastern states and has no pest problems. Its wiry leaves form a clump that sends out wispy, pinkish panicles in fall. Muhlygrass is a great foil for other bedding plants, and is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions.

8. Rain barrels and other containers that collect stormwater should be capped to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and exclude wildlife access. Baby birds, squirrels and other wildlife get trapped in barrels and drown; hardware cloth makes a fine material to cap this containers.

Fruit and Vegetable Gardens

9. Beneficial insect populations generally buildup to significant numbers by early summer and are the gardener’s best helper for natural control of plant pests. Praying mantis, ladybugs and parasitic wasps are important predators in the biological war for saving your harvest. Increase their numbers by planting cover crops, such as buckwheat and clovers, in vacant space in the vegetable garden. Many blooming plants with small flowers are attractive to beneficial insects. Minimize the use of insecticides in edible garden plantings.

10. Irrigation and mulching are important practices for successful gardening. Experiment with drip irrigation and other low volume systems to conserve water. Rain barrels that receive stormwater from your gutters are a good way to supply moisture to thirsty gardens.

11. Strawberry plants can be thinned to 12 inches after harvest. Remove runners, then fertilize and weed plantings. Strawberry beds may need to be replaced after three years of production.

12. Extend your vegetable harvest with successive plantings during the summer months. Remember to sidedress with fertilizer monthly or as needed. Calcium nitrate fertilizer is often recommended for feeding vegetable plants.

13. Squash vine borers are a threat to squash, pumpkins and the gourd family members. Use the least toxic method to stop this pest: routinely check for signs of borers in June and August.

14. Vegetable and herb plantings yield more when they are harvested regularly and picked when at their peak maturity time. Ask family or friends to pick your vegetables when you are away on vacation. The garden will benefit and your friends will appreciate your generosity.

15. Prune tomato plants by removing the lower leaves on the stems. This is a practice that is common in greenhouse production with trellised, indeterminate tomato varieties. The lower leaves are often shaded and disease-prone. Higher yields are common in home gardens where tomato cages are used. With the cage system, minimal pruning reduces blossom-end rot and yield. There are advantages in both cases.

16. Thin fruit on fruit trees because they are notorious for overbearing, which can reduce the number of fruit the next year. Hand-thinning also increases the size of individual fruits remaining on trees.

17. Apply chemical insecticides late in the day to protect honeybee populations. Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil spray applications are helpful to eradicate damaging aphid populations. Consult your county extension agent for advice on the safe use of pesticides or for alternatives to chemical insecticides.

Lawn Care

18. Fertilize warm-season turfgrass varieties such as Bermuda grass, St. Augustine and zoysia, once a month during the summer months, or as needed based on a soil test. For more information on lawn management, request or download a copy of the “Lawn Maintenance Calendar” from N.C. Cooperative Extension for your turfgrass type. (Tall fescue lawns require no further fertilizing unless they are managed by irrigation and a professional lawn service.)

19. Mow lawns as needed, but remove no more than one-third of the height of the grass. This ensures that the root system is not stressed. Clippings can be left on tall fescue lawns to recycle nutrients and add organic matter back into the soil. Raise the cutting height on cool season lawns as hot weather approaches; this helps reduce weed infestations.

20. Fungal diseases frequently show up on home lawns this time of year as rainfall increases and nighttime temperatures rise. Systemic fungicides may offer some relief when applied at the onset of disease development, but the most environmentally sound practice is to avoid chemical treatment and reseed or sod areas that may be lost to disease at the appropriate time.

For more than 30 years, Toby Bost has been a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent, a trainer for master gardeners, and an author. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide. He can be reached through Our State magazine at gardening@ourstate.com

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