Summer is a great time for family vacations and trips to the pool, but it can be a huge challenge for gardeners. Vegetable plants get touchy when temperatures climb, flowers collapse and the lawn might even take on a slightly brown tone. Depending on where you live, summer may be the most difficult season for your plants, but if you follow these summer gardening tips, you can protect them from the worst of the heat.
Water is the most important thing you can give your plants in the summer, provided you give it at the right time and in decent amounts. Put away the sprinklers unless you mean to water your lawn and go after your plants with a hose with a sprinkler wand attachment or run a soaker hose through your bigger beds. Water each plant at its base until water puddles, in the morning, two to three times a week.
You can further enhance your soil’s water holding capacity by applying two to four inches of organic mulch to bare ground, even in the vegetable garden. Not only does mulch help retain water, it keeps soil cooler by shading it from the harsh rays of the sun. Cooler soil means cooler roots, increasing the odds that your plants will survive a heat wave.
If a drench every few days is still leaving your plants wilted during midday, check the soil moisture with a meter, or use your finger to probe the top two inches of the soil. If it feels dry to the touch, increase your watering frequency. Resist the urge to fertilize your plants if they are showing any signs of heat stress – until they are sufficiently rehydrated, fertilizing can be damaging.
Summer Garden Chores
Summer is the season for weeds. They really get going about this time, so make sure you’re pulling any new invaders at least once a week. Summer weeds grow fast and set seed before you know it – if you put this chore off, you will regret it. While you’re at it, check the plants nearby for signs of pest insects hiding on the undersides of leaves.
Flowers and fruits need attention. While you’re weeding, make sure to remove any spent flowers or those that are starting to fade. Also make sure to pick your vegetables and fruits in a timely manner to discourage spoilage – it attracts a host of pests and diseases. Check food plants over for deformed fruits and remove them on sight to allow the plant to focus its efforts on growing the healthy fruits.
Don’t forget your containers! Containers need water at a much greater rate than your garden plants, make sure you’re checking them frequently. If the soil feels bone dry, you may have let them go too long – water the containers as soon as possible and increase your watering frequency until temperatures cool a little.
Plant heat-loving annuals. Early summer is a great time to refresh your garden with annuals that love the heat. As your spring bloomers fade, these summer annuals will be ready to take their places, disguising browning foliage and empty spots in the landscape. A few of our favorite summer annuals are listed below.
|Common Name||Scientific Name|
|Spider Flower||Cleome hassleriana|
|Cosmos||Cosmos bipinnatus, Cosmos sulphureus|
|Gazania Hybrids||Gazania spp.|
|Flowering Tobacco||Nicotiana spp.|
|Petunia Hybrids||Petunia spp.|
|Rose Moss||Portulaca spp.|
|Common Zinnia||Zinnia elegans|