Successfully planting and nurturing a springtime garden means it will soon be time to prepare for the summer months to come. Summer conditions require some notable changes in maintenance. The season brings its own challenges and rewards. Below are five vital tips for keeping a garden happy, green, and healthy through the hottest peaks of the year.
1. Prune and Trim Herbaceous Perennials
An herbaceous perennial is a plant that dies back every year but comes back in the spring because its roots or another base of the plant are still alive. Spring flowering plants with spent flowers need to be deadheaded. It’s also a good idea to cut down herbaceous perennials after they’re done with spring flowering. Deadheading spring flowers encourages the plant to produce again once the spring returns.
Deadheading plants is not for aesthetic reasons alone. Some plants stop blossoming if they are not deadheaded, and the offspring of some flowers that are allowed to go to seed may crowd out other plants, including its parents. If the seedlings come from a hybrid, they are often not as attractive as well.
2. Stake Taller Plants
Plants that tend to grow tall and thin such as delphiniums may need to be staked to prevent them from flopping over. It is best if the stakes are put in before the plants are very tall. For a plant with a single long stem, use a stake about three quarters of the height the plant will be and attach the stem about halfway up the stake with twine. As the plant grows, add another loop of twine just under the flower head just before it blooms. Eventually, the stakes will be hidden by the plant’s leaves and flowers.
A perennial that has a bushy habit can be supported by four or five stakes that are as tall as the plant is going to be. Plant the stakes in a square around the plant and connect them with twine. Then, when the blooms appear, tie more twine just under the flowerheads. Delicate plants can be supported by twiggy branches planted around it. Sharpen the ends of the branches and plant them in a way so that they lean in toward each other. Other supports include wire frames and hoops.
3. Care for the Lawn
As the days grow longer, the lawn grows taller, but no more than one third of the height of the grass blade should be removed when mowing. If more is removed, grass will have a harder time during the hot months. Experts claim that keeping grass fairly tall is a good idea, for tall grass shades out weeds, has deeper roots and can better tolerate stretches of drought.
After mowing, don’t throw out the grass clippings but layer them over the grass for mulch. This keeps the grass cool during the hottest part of the day and helps the soil retain water. When it comes to watering, it is good to water the lawn infrequently but deeply. Frequent, shallow watering encourages the grass to have shallow roots, which is not ideal.
Spring is the best time to fertilize the lawn. It shouldn’t be fertilized during the summer because the heat makes the fertilizer burn the grass. Even if the fertilizer stimulates new growth, the heat of the summer can stress progress. Some lawns actually go dormant in the summer, and if they do, they shouldn’t be fertilized until fall. Experts recommend organic over chemical fertilizers. Organics work gently and slowly and are more eco-friendly.
4. Tend to Fruits and Vegetables
The branches of fruit trees should be thinned out to allow fruit growth to expand. It may be time to cover fruit trees with netting to keep developing fruit from hungry birds and deer. In warmer climates, some herbs may be ready for harvest. Now is the time to gather and dry some for the winter and reseed the garden with more herbs to grow during the summer.
If the seeds of warm weather plants such as tomatoes and eggplants have germinated indoors, now is the time to plant them outside if they have a mature leaf or two. Cool weather plants such as lettuce, kale, and spinach have already been placed in the garden and may be ready for harvesting. These plants don’t mind a haircut. If they are cut down, they’ll grow back. The one caveat is they may need to have a shade cloth placed over them during the day to protect them from the heat. When these plants get too hot or get too much sun, they may bolt.
5. Start a Compost Bin
Compost bins do not have to be fancy or expensive. All the gardener needs do is buy some turkey wire, curve it into a cylinder, and place it in some inconspicuous spot in the garden. Some who don’t want their compost bin seen might choose to put it behind a baffle or wattle fence.
A compost pile is a great way to recycle those deadheaded flowers, straw, dead leaves, and the grass clippings that the gardener didn’t leave on the lawn. Once started, the compost pile should be kept damp but not sopping wet and then turned now and then. The first usable compost should be ready in about two weeks, though some might take longer depending on pile composition.
Getting the garden ready for summer is a joyful task. In addition to providing moderate exercise, it gives the gardener the pleasure of knowing the warm weather will bring more flowers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables for family and friends to enjoy.
If caring for and maintaining a garden seems like an overwhelming task, look into starting a community garden in your area. The labor and the yield can both be shared.