Caring for the Summer Garden
The temperatures are high, the humidity feels even higher and the garden continues to grow. Weeds are soaking up the rain and competing with your favorite plants for the limited space, nutrients and sunshine. Vines are overtaking the areas that have been ignored and that giant pokeweed in the back is about to go to seed which will create even more problems next year! A gardener can easily become overwhelmed and hibernate in the air conditioned house until the cool weather returns viewing the garden through binoculars while pretending to look at birds.
While this is the comfortable way out I encourage you to keep at it. Take your time with each task and work in the off hours of the day to conquer the weeds and the vines. Apply a light application of slow release or organic fertilizer to replenish the soil's nutrients leached from repeated waterings and rain. After weeding the beds apply a pre-emergent (organic or not) to reduce the germination of weed seeds and then remulch the beds to retain soil moisture and stabilize the soil temperature. Examine your plants for signs of insects and disease because the high humidity and extreme temperatures are a recipe for plant stress. Get your problems diagnosed by a professional and take action to remedy the situation.
Realize spring blooming shrubs are forming their flower buds in the late summer so leave those alone but you can prune other plants now. This will allow any new growth to harden off before the first frost.
In the vegetable garden, evaluate the summer crops and consider which can be harvested and removed to create the space needed to plant the crops of fall in your garden. If the vegetable garden is overcome with weeds research square foot gardening or wide bed planting techniques for next season's garden. With these techniques the soil is shaded by the tight placement of the vegetables which reduces weed germination and growth. Applying a thick layer of straw will inhibit weed growth for the remainder of this season once you have battled the existing weeds.
The most important task is to take the time to evaluate your summer landscape or garden and plan for changes that can be implemented in a few months because Fall is for Planting and it is just a few weeks away!
Peggy Singlemann is a regular guest on Virginia Home Grown, and shares expert gardening tips and information either from the beautiful grounds of Maymont or by answering your questions in our studio.