Garden Dirt

Summer gardening? It’s not too late!

Flowers and plants with variegated foliage add color throughout the summer season.

Here’s what to do right now!

By Ray Greenstreet

Summer can be a time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewards of the well-maintained garden—but if your garden isn’t quite where you want it to be, it is not too late.

The best part about visiting your local garden centers in summer is the variety of options in full bloom. This is particularly true of perennials, with the biggest overlap in different species’ bloom time and the strongest flowering of many garden must-haves. The options extend far beyond traditional cone flowers and coreopsis, and these options gradually change as early summer goes to mid and late summer.

This provides a consistently strong selection of plants to choose from to add color to your garden. So, if you see gaps to fill in or don’t have as many flowers as you would like, come in and check out the options.

It is widely repeated that summer is not a great time to be planting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This myth mainly stems from the fact that summer is typically dryer than spring, so plants will need to be watered more.

Planting typically involves putting the roots in the ground (or a large pot) where they will have more soil to absorb water than they did in their pots at the store. By planting in the summer, you are making the plants happier than they were in their original pots. Watering after planting is important, but the plants will immediately be better protected from the stress of heat and drought than they were before transplanting. The main take-away here is that if a plant looks good and happy at the store, it will be even happier once you plant it, even in the summer.

It is also not too late to add nutrients for stronger plants and better blooms. If you fertilized in the spring, you’re probably set, but you didn’t, fertilizing now will help provide an extra boost to summer and fall flowers and it will help your spring blooming plants store the energy they will need to flower their best next year.

Mulching is another way to keep your landscape tidy, while preserving soil moisture and reducing weed growth.

This is especially true if you have containers like pots or window boxes. Nutrients are lost continually, and the only source of new nutrients is through additions of fertilizer. Adding slow release or controlled release fertilizers around the plants in spring or summer will provide the minerals they need to get them through the main growing season.

Summer comes with other challenges too, including insect pests like aphids, sawfly larvae, and Japanese beetles, and diseases like powdery mildew. The internet can be a resource when trying to identify what might be wrong, but many different problems can appear similar. This is an area the staff at garden centers or an extension office can be extremely helpful. Pictures help, but it is better to provide leaf samples (just bring in some leaves or a small branch in a sealed bag). Many diseases and insects are easy to stop or kill with the right knowledge and tools.

Other maintenance, like dead-heading and pruning, depends largely on the specifics of the individual plants, but it can certainly help keep spaces looking tidy. Mulching is another way to clean up and it provides benefits like preserving soil moisture and reducing weed growth.

If the rainy weather got in the way of your spring gardening, just remember, the best time to do anything you haven’t done yet is always right now.

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