Gardeners spend the spring hovering over small plants. But when summer heat and humidity clamps down, they wonder whether they took on too much. Still others are unprepared for problems that erupt. Here are things to keep in mind:
Take care while watering. Overhead watering, especially of vegetable gardens and flower beds, should be avoided. This is especially true if you must water your plants in the late afternoon or evening, when there is less time for the leaves to dry. This invites diseases, which can ruin such plants as zinnias, tomatoes and periwinkles. Just remember: Water roots, not leaves.
Pick your crops on time. Check your vegetables daily. Left to languish, they deteriorate rapidly, which can harm the vigor and longevity of the plant.
Deadhead flowers. Yes, it’s tedious, but almost all flowers benefit. It encourages fresh growth and keeps the plants, such as roses, zinnias and marigolds, from going to seed and shutting down. Spent stems of daylilies and other perennials should be removed. Don’t regret the time you spend on your knees snipping away, because fresh growth and new buds are the results. The plants look better, too.
Beware of pests, but do not go overboard. It is unlikely you will have hordes of insects going after the green beans or yellow squash. More likely, there may be a few caterpillars or some beetles that you can pick off and get rid of. It’s not difficult, it’s free and avoids use of a pesticide. And learn to recognize beneficial insects such as praying mantis, lady beetle, lacewing and assassin bug, which can be very helpful in reducing populations of harmful insects. When slugs are a problem, set out a saucer of beer, where they’ll drown.
Fill blank spaces. Disappearing daffodil foliage, spring lettuce that is done, even something you had high hopes for but didn’t prosper, are all reasons to replant spaces. Garden centers are full of good-sized annuals that will fill in the blanks and improve color instantly. And there is no reason to avoid putting flowers in vegetable beds– they attract pollinating insects for crops. Sun: Mexican heather, begonia. Shade: Impatiens.
Don’t leave home without … someone to watch over your garden. The tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squashes and more will continue to bear. Don’t let it go to waste. Get someone to pick your crops and enjoy them, and to water as needed. Move houseplants to a shady spot outdoors where they can prosper from the fresh air and humidity.
Protect your investment. New shrubs you planted this spring require careful attention to watering because they’re not established. They will wilt rapidly in hot, dry weather. A slow watering of the root zone by placing a hose that is just oozing water will water the roots well and reduce wilting.