As we head toward mid-summer, here are several helpful tips to keep your garden flourishing. Warm weather and pests can really put a damper on things, but these simple maintenance tips will make a difference for your garden.
Have pesky weeds poking through your driveway, walkway, or patio? Before spending money on herbicide, utilize the building heat of the approaching summer and try a little “kitchen chemistry” first. On a hot, sunny day, simply spray the offending weeds with vinegar. The plants usually shrivel up in less than an hour, but keep in mind that repeated spraying might be necessary for particularly hardy weeds.
Going on vacation? Your plants aren’t, so be sure to have a gardening buddy look in on your green world to water, deadhead, weed, or harvest.
Dry, hot weather can cause blossom drop on peppers, so irrigate regularly and mist the plants once or twice a day with water.
Replace fading spring flowers with colorful heat-seekers such as sun coleus, celosia, marigold, nicotiana, portulaca, petunia, and zinnia, which thrive in the summer sun.
If you have been enjoying home-grown strawberries for the last two to three years, it is time to pull up the plants and start over after this year’s last berry has been picked. For maximum production, two to three years is usually the most you can get from these plants.
If you weed the old-fashioned way (by hand), remember the best way to prevent even more weeds is to pull the pesky plants before they develop seed hands. Right after a soaking rain is the easiest time to pull up weeds with their roots intact.
Lightly sidedress with fertilizer any vegetables that have begun to set crops.
Cucumbers always bitter? It is probably due to stress from dry conditions. Keep your cukes and their taste cool with a mulch around the plants, and remember to provide water on a regular basis.
Flea beetles love hot weather, and they also love eggplants, so watch for these pin-sized pests. Contact insecticides can be uses, but draping the plants with lightweight row cover fabric is a safe and effective way to deter these unwanted insects.
Bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede, and zoysia lawns should be fertilized this month at a rate of one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
Prune rhododendron blossoms after they fade to prevent the formation of seed pods, saving the plant’s energy for the next year’s flower show.
If you want an all-botanical, green screen, now is a fine time for vines. Try fast-growing, scarlet runner bean, morning glory, or cardinal climber.
If you use Japanese beetle traps, locate them far away from any ornamentals you don’t want eaten. The traps attract beetles, and many of these unwanted pests have a snack before they fly to the traps.
Herbs are usually at their harvesting best just before flowering when they contain the maximum in essential oils. Also, pick herbs early in the morning before the sun has a chance to dry the plants.
If you have a fescue lawn, it’s time to raise the lawn mower blade to help the grass cope with the heat of summer. Cutting height for Kentucky 31 should be three to four inches, while turf-type fescues should be cut at a height of two-and-a-half to three inches.
For 20 years, L.A. Jackson contributed gardening stories and tips to Our State magazine. These tips come from the Tar Heel Gardening archives.
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