A GROWING CONCERN: Kick summer garden chores into high gear

SINCE I MOVED here, 27 years ago, I always heard: “It rains on the 4th of July… And the next day, summer begins!

Well, it will most likely be, and then our good times will come. It is now the beginning of the beginning of summer. That’s right, there are still 76 days of summer left. And just like most people who give up and think summer is over on Labor Day, so will your plants and garden if you don’t get a ton of chores done now.

Enough chatter. Time is short and the days are long, so here’s your list of yard jobs to do by August 2.

1. Check your watering

We are now in a long dry period and your plants should not be stressed. Check all aspects of irrigation. Has vegetation grown and started to block sprinklers? Have the drip lines been clogged or cut? And your baskets and pots? Check them carefully, as well as the stone or driveway facings, to make sure that a dry patch here or there does not appear. When you see the dried plant die from lack of water, it will be too late.

2. Cultivate and/or plow

Many people simply don’t understand the delicate interaction of soil with all plant functions. Now, as long as it is dry and warm, it is vital that all the moisture seeps into the ground and does not run off. A crust has developed on your soil due to the natural elements of compaction – water, wind, rain, gravity, sun or you step on it. This crust significantly slows the release of harmful gases caused by decomposition and living organisms. It also acts as a barrier blocking vital gases from the atmosphere and not allowing these gases to “load the ground”.

Lightly till your soil or plow between rows of vegetables and around trees to break up this crust. But do not cultivate on very hot sunny days, and when you cultivate, water immediately. Add fertilizer to be totally professional.

3. Roses

These plants are nitrogen guzzlers, so feed them and keep them well watered. It’s their time! Absolutely remove all leaves, even slightly yellow or dying. Be sure to prune them wide enough (16 to 20 inches) and on an outward-facing node when removing flowers.

4. Lilies

As the lilies bloom, be sure to remove the long anthers inside the flower. This will double the flowering time. Tie them up if necessary and feed and water them well. As the bloom fades, cut the flower back, but keep as much foliage as possible. Feed your lilies and all bulbous plants bone meal in mid-August.

5. Water your trees deeply

All beautiful large trees, and especially fruit trees, which you want to see decades from now, need deep waterings every 3 weeks until September. On beautiful, sunny summer days, fruit and specimen trees can transpire (release into the atmosphere) hundreds of gallons of water. Help them hold fruit and stay vigorous and healthy by watering enough to soak 2 feet (4-5 hours of watering or drip irrigation per day).

6. Weeds.

Be on the lookout for noxious weeds and destroy them before their seeds ripen and disperse. Please remove these thistle and nettle weeds, or at least keep their flower heads clipped all year round to avoid spreading them. Also get rid of those loose grasses, clovers or other weeds in your garden while they are easy to pull out, otherwise an intrusion becomes a massive occupation.

7. Sharpen your mower

Your mower has been working hard for the past few months and few of us have perfectly level ground. A dull mower rips rather than cuts blades of grass. These tears turn brown in the sun, giving a dull brown appearance to the lawn. Remove your blade and have it sharpened. And while you’re at it, clean or change the oil, air filter, and fuel filter.

8. Dead head and pinch

I can’t explain or emphasize enough how saving dead flowers and pinching a few tips with buds and flowers each week will keep your plants blooming well into November. It’s also your #1 disease fighter. So please remember, you have to spend flowers to get flowers.

9. Shape the prune

The next few weeks are perfect for shaping the size of your woody ornamentals. It’s still early summer, so there’s plenty of time for new growth to grow and mature before the late fall frost damages the tender growth. This season’s new growth is also rampant, and thinning or shaping now gives a manicured look for the rest of the summer.

10. Perennials

Stay above them. Remove their flowers and stems once they have finished flowering. Thin out any large leaves, then cover lightly with a nice dark black compost. Grow and fertilize for guaranteed stellar repeat performance. Don’t forget the bone meal in mid-August.

11. The vegetable garden

This is the perfect time to sow new rows of beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, beets and spinach, even green onions. And if you lay new rows of edible or sweet peas this week, you will have an amazing harvest in early fall. The vegetable garden indeed has its best months ahead of it; go buy some seeds today.

12. Diseases and plague

Always be diligent now in your observation of the garden. Find these insect infestations within the first few days. Cut or discard and treat areas immediately before a few aphids destroy all dahlias or cause fruit tree fruit abortion.

13. Lavender Festival

It’s almost time to get up and enjoy the day at the Lavender Festival in Sequim, July 15-17. Awaken your senses at marvelous farms and at a grand street fair. Collect ideas for your own garden, meet new people and simply dive into a horticultural extravaganza. If you can’t make it, check out other gardens in the coming weeks. They will be at their height in colors and ideas, all for your greatest pleasure.

And be well, everyone.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA”. Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, PO Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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