For gardeners, mid-summer represents the first stage in the culmination of their efforts. Summer flowers are in spectacular bloom, and delectable early season herbs and vegetables are ready for harvest.
However, there is still a long way to go. For gardeners, summer is a bit like a marathon: they must remain vigilant their summer crops don’t succumb to the ever-present triple-threat of drought, weeds and pests. And, it almost goes without saying that any proud gardener desires to keep everything looking its best, which, at times, can seem like a Sisyphean task.
Following is a list of gardening tips for mid-summer maintenance, useful for both newly minted green thumbs as well as for experienced gardeners who may benefit from a refresher. For those of you with children, including them in these efforts is a good way to introduce them to gardening while they cavort at your side enjoying summer’s delights.
- Mulch: If you didn’t get a chance to mulch your plants at the beginning of the season, or if you only mulched them lightly, summer is the time to lay it down/add more. Mulch shields plant roots from the sun and prevents the soil from drying out. It can consist of various organic matter such as shredded wood or leaves, straw,or grass clippings. Not only do these materials help protect the plants, they enrich the soil as they decompose. Another good mulch material in common use is newspaper (non-glossy) which is really effective at keeping weeds at bay but also degrades over time.
- Annuals: remove and replace spring flowering annuals such as pansies which fade in the heat. Replace them with heat loving varieties such as zinnias, sunflowers or cosmos (pollinators will thank you). Annuals need water and constant nourishment to support their magnificent blooms, so we recommend applying a granular time-release fertilizer at planting and providing supplemental feedings regularly throughout the season via a liquid fertilizer. To encourage fullness and repeat flowering, deadhead annuals such as dahlias, marigolds, and snapdragons.
- Perennials: cut early season flowering perennials to the ground to encourage regrowth. Deadhead mid-season plants to encourage reblooming. Pinch (prune) late season perennials such as mums, sedums and asters, to create fuller, more visually-pleasing plants.
- Weeding: mid-summer is when weeds really hit their stride and proliferate endlessly. Do your best to stay ahead of them and pull them before they are able to set seed which would make life more difficult. For example, here’s a fun fact: did you know that a single dandelion can produce 2000 seeds in a year?! Weeds steal moisture and nutrients from your plants and also attract pests. They’ve got to go.
- Mulch: If you didn’t get a chance to mulch your plants at the beginning of the season, or if you only mulched them lightly, now is the time to lay it down/add more. Mulch shields plant roots from the sun and prevents the soil from drying out. It can consist of various organic matter such as shredded wood or leaves, straw,or grass clippings. Not only do these materials help protect the plants, they enrich the soil as they decompose. Another good mulch material in common use is newspaper (non-glossy) which is really effective at keeping weeds at bay but also degrades over time.
- Watering: Obviously, keeping your plants from drying out is really important, but the way you do it is also important for the health of your plants. Water deeply every few days (vs. every day) to encourage deep root systems. There are some plants, such as astilbe and hydrangea, that should be monitored as they are particularly susceptible to drying out.
- Pests: Keep an eye out for damaging insects and fungal diseases and eradicate them before them can do much harm. Some of these pests, such as Japanese beetles, are easy to spot and deal with, but others are more insidious. We recommend trying to eliminate pests naturally and avoiding toxic chemicals.
- Harvest Early Summer Crops: It’s important to harvest early season crops as soon as they have matured as they will not be at their best if you let them languish. Lettuce and other salad greens will bolt and become bitter if you don’t harvest them in time.
- Plant Fall Crops: Summer is the time for gardeners who live in zone 4-6 to plant crops for fall harvest. Good choices include lettuce, arugula (make sure these leafy greens are not in a full sun location in the mid-summer’s heat), broccoli, kale, spinach and cilantro. Root vegetables may also be a good choice. Be sure to turn the soil and add fertilizer before planting new crops.
Occasionally, depending on the region in which you live, there are periods when summer can go all wrong. It can be cool and damp or be unrelentingly hot with no rain, seriously challenging your ability to grow plants that resemble the model specimens you see in gardening books or online. When this happens, try to be patient and retain a sense of humor about the situation. Just remember two truths: ‘you can’t beat Mother Nature’ and for those in the northern half of the country, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change’. And, be thankful that more often than not, summer is glorious, even if it is way too short.