We’ve been experiencing a lot of hot days lately, leaving our gardens in desperate need of some help. We thought it would be a good idea to share some tips with you to get through the remaining weeks of summer and still have a beautiful vibrant garden!
Those scorching summer days? Your garden feels them too. To keep plants perky, focus on these 5 key factors, then consult our basic tips to find out when your plants have met their match—or just need a little extra love.
Five Key Factors for Successful Summer Gardening
- Perennials: Most perennials bloom for a 4-8 week period, but deadheading (pruning dead flowers) can help promote a second set of blooms. Since a plant’s goal is to produce more seeds, pruning dying flowers sends it the signal to grow more.
- Annuals: A majority of annuals bloom all season long, but for those that don’t self-clean, deadheading can help grow new blooms. If your annuals start to look less than appealing, cut them back 10-15 cm. (4-6”) to encourage new growth that’s compact, fresh and green.
- Need to Water? Stick your finger in the soil to the middle joint. If it’s wet or damp, forego watering. As you’re tending to container plants, pick them up when they’ve been watered and when they’re dry. You’ll start to notice the difference in weight, which over time can help you to determine when they need to be watered.
- How Often? In the full summer sun, container plants may need to be watered twice a day. If it’s hard to find the time, move them to a protected area. For trees and shrubs, use the previously mentioned soil-testing trick. With experience, you’ll start to get a feel for how often plants should be watered.
- When? Ideally, you’ll want to water plants during the early morning and early afternoon. Wet foliage at night can lead to mould and mildew, so it’s important to give plants time to dry. However, if given the choice of wilted plants in the evening or not watering—water. Just be careful to keep the foliage dry.
- How? Watering from the air can result in rapid evaporation, so we suggest watering from the soil line. Weeper hoses are useful since they help water to directly seep to the roots. Lay them on the ground next to plants, and set your timer for about an hour.
3. Fertilizing: Container plants lose nutrients quickly due to frequent watering during the summer, so fertilize as often as every day, but at least once a week. We recommend using half of what the fertilizer calls for since over fertilizing can cause plants stress.
4. Mulching: It isn’t too late to mulch! If you have less than 5-10 cm. (2-4”) of mulch in your garden beds, consider mulching to help conserve water and reduce weeds. Weeds steal water and nutrients from your soil, so it’s important to keep them at bay. When mulching, we prefer organic mulches mixed with our outdoor and kitchen composts.
Tip: If using hardwood mulches, be cautious of using them close to your home. They’re known to attract pests like termites.
5. Pest Control
- Good vs. Bad Bugs: Embrace good bugs like ladybugs, bees, praying mantises and spiders while avoiding unwanted bugs like aphids or Japanese beetles. For more information on which are good and bad, use a field guide, and record what you learn in a gardening journal. If the pest is difficult to identify, place a sample in a jar and consult a local nursery.
- Attract Friendly Creatures: Place birdhouses, birdbaths and birdfeeders throughout your yard to attract birds that control populations of unwanted insects.
- Choosing Your Pesticide: Match the right pesticide to your pest, and always start with the least harmful formula first. Our simple, gentle do-it-yourself pesticide is a good start: Mix 15 mL (1 tablespoon) of cooking oil with a generous squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Add water, and test a spot on your plant before going to town. When spraying, be sure to get the back of leaves since they’re popular hiding spots for pests.Tip: If your plants still have trouble prospering, consult our three green thumb rules. Or focus on heat loving plants like Purple Coneflower, Switch Grass, Russian Sage, Hummingbird Mint and Yarrow. They’re safe bets for dry, summer weather.
When is it Time to Throw in the Towel?
When assessing whether a plant has met its match—or just needs a little extra love—keep these basics in mind:
- Grass goes dormant without water in the heat, so it’s best to leave it alone.
- If a tree’s twig snaps when you bend it, it’s a sign the branch, and possibly the rest of the plant, is dead. Take a small branch off, scrape it, and if it has some green, it’s likely alive.
- When annuals have browned, it’s time to pull them out.
- If conifers lose their needles, they won’t come back.
Tip: If your plants still have trouble prospering, consult our three green thumb rules. Or focus on heat loving plants like Purple Coneflower, Switch Grass, Russian Sage, Hummingbird Mint and Yarrow. They’re safe bets for dry, summer weather.