It’s the height of summer, and your garden is flourishing. But with more than a month to go, can you keep your garden beautiful right up until the final days of summer? Follow this easy guide and enjoy your blooms until season’s end.
“Removing withered flower heads will encourage your annuals and perennials to continue to flower throughout the season,” says Gord Nickel, host of Global Television’s Get Up and Grow . Cut back flowering plants such as fuschias and geraniums to encourage new blooms, and shear creeping plants back a few inches to prevent them from getting too “leggy” – a common problem this time of year, advises Sarah Beckon, a horticulturalist for Toronto’s Allweather Landscape. It’s also the perfect time to cut back your roses. Trim to the first outward-facing “true leaf” (with five leaflets) below the bloom – it’s the perfect place to cut for display and it will encourage new blooms before summer’s end.
While it’s best to divide most plants in the spring and fall, irises, day lilies, hostas and oriental poppies can be divided now so they stay compact and don’t die out in the centre, advises Beckon. To divide plants, dig about a foot around the roots with a sharp spade. Separate growth with garden forks (poppies and day lilies) or a spade for stronger-rooted plants (hostas and irises). Replant early in the morning and water well after replanting.
By midsummer, flowers that are top heavy and drooping (such as delphiniums, yarrow, hollyhocks and sunflowers) may need to be propped up and tied to keep them upright. Purchase a few stakes or use sticks and twigs to support plants.
This is a great time to clean up your garden’s edges. “It gives your garden and walkways a neater edge and a nicer appearance, plus it keeps the grass out and the water in the garden,” explains Beckon. Use a sharp spade or a half-moon for your edging; Nickel suggests using a 2×6 plank as a guideline for a straight clean edge.
If you’re wondering what should be weeded out of your garden, the answer is simple: “Anything you didn’t plant!” says Beckon. Remove weeds often – before they have a chance to seed and spread – using a hoe, garden fork or hand trowel to get at all the roots.
Giving your plants a healthy dose of fertilizer is important during this time of heavy growth and flowering, explains Nickel. Use an organic water-soluble fertilizer, as plants will absorb it through the leaves for faster results.
Midsummer is the perfect time to add mulch to your garden soil. “It’s very important for retaining the soil’s moisture and keeps airborne weeds from implanting deeply into your beds,” explains Nickel. You should choose mulch suited to your plants and your soil, so ask your garden centre to recommend the best mulch for your garden.
If it’s been raining, watering may be unnecessary. But in July when it’s generally dry, both Beckon and Nickel advise that infrequent watering (once or twice weekly) for longer periods of time is better than daily watering. “Occasional watering promotes deep root growth and penetrates better for healthier plants,” says Beckon. She recommends watering first thing in the morning when the plants are most active. How much water do your beds need? “The soil should be moistened down about four inches,” recommends Nickel. Remember that container plants should be watered daily or as needed.
Generally, if you notice any yellowing on leaves or chew marks, you may need an insecticide; if you see black spots on rose leaves, you need a fungicide. “It’s best to first take any affected leaves to a garden centre, so they can positively identify if you need an insecticide or a fungicide,” says Nickel. To prevent outbreaks, feed your plants well and keep gardens clear of dead debris where insects and fungi thrive. Beckon suggests if you prefer to rid your plants of insects the natural way, consider a compost “tea” available at your garden centre.
Have a bare spot you want to fill? Consider a quick crop of lettuce. Lettuce takes just a few weeks to grow, and you can pick the leaves as needed or take the whole head before it flowers. “Peas and alfalfa are also great ground cover and make a perfect ‘green manure’ for the soil,” says Beckon.
Now that you’re done, sit back, sip on a tall cool drink, and enjoy the final weeks of summer in your glorious garden!