By Jennifer Fairfield
(Publisher’s note: this is the second of a two-part column. Part one published Friday.)
In the flower garden:
- Keeping your flower beds watered is probably going to be your biggest task this month. Just like with the vegetable garden, your flower beds need about an inch of water per week, or a little more when it’s really hot, like it’s going to be for the next little bit. Watering early in the morning allows more water to get into the soil than watering during the heat of the day. This is because some of the water will evaporate in the hot sun before it can sink into the ground. Making sure your garden is well mulched is also a great way to keep moisture in the soil around your plants. Try not to water in the evening, as this can leave the foliage of your plants wet longer, which is a great way to encourage disease.
- Insects and other pests are as much of an issue in flower beds as in veggie gardens, so keep an eye out for damage, and try to get to the pests before the damage is too extensive. Mostly, I’m seeing leaf hoppers in my garden, but a friend recently told me he is being plagued by Japanese beetles. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing how to deal with pests. First, be sure you know what pest you are targeting – not all insecticides will kill all insects, and some are far more lethal than may be necessary. Second, be aware of when to apply – different insects are active at different times of day, and some pesticides work best if sprayed directly on the pest. Third, be aware of bee activity in your flowering plants – don’t spray any insecticides when you see bees around, or at least do targeted spraying instead of broadcast spraying, to avoid killing bees.
- The other pests I have been having problems with in my flower beds this spring are deer. They seem to think I have planted all the beautiful flowering plants in my beds just for them, even though there is plenty of other vegetation they can eat all around my property (and surrounding fields and woods). Fortunately, I have a pretty effective product to keep them at bay. As soon as I see that they have targeted another plant, I reach for the Deer Scram. It’s an all-natural product that can be used in flower and vegetable beds, and I have found it to be very effective at keeping my plants safe from the larger pests – both deer and rabbits.
- Be sure to fertilize roses throughout the month, but stop fertilizing at the end of the month to allow the new growth to harden off before winter. Also remove diseased leaves immediately, and pick up any that have fallen. These tasks, along with regular fungicide spraying will help keep your roses healthy. Aphids, mites, and Japanese beetles tend to be the biggest pest problems for roses. Aphids and mites can be controlled with Espoma’s Insecticidal Soap. Japanese beetles are actually best controlled by knocking them off the plants and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. The soap coats their wings, making it impossible for them to get out of the water, and they eventually drown. It’s best to do this is in the afternoon, when it has warmed up, and the beetles are most active. Getting as many as you see on a daily basis will help keep them under control. If you wait too long, the few you have will suddenly turn into a mob, as they don’t like to dine alone, and once one has found your garden, it will send out signals to all its friends to come and join it.
- Keep weeds under control, as they compete with your flowers for moisture and nutrients.
- Cut back perennials that have finished blooming.
- Do you have a bare spot in your garden that you want to fill in quickly? Zinnia seeds planted this weekend will come up in a matter of days in the heat of July, will start producing blooms in just a few weeks, and will provide a beautiful late season show.
- To keep your potted annual flowers looking great all summer long, water them frequently (most likely daily in this heat), and be sure to fertilize them. With frequent watering, fertilizer tends to get flushed out of the container, so regular feedings are a must. Also, don’t forget to deadhead. By removing dead flowers, you encourage the growth of new ones throughout the season.
Trees & Shrubs:
- Regularly water any trees and shrubs planted this year. It’s actually a good idea to water trees and shrubs that were planted in the past two to three years, as they are still not necessarily fully established, and can get severely stressed in this heat when we aren’t getting much rain. Tree and shrub watering bags can make this task much easier. You fill them up once, and they the water seeps out slowly, which ensures that the water stays at the tree roots, rather than running off.
- Don’t apply fertilizer to trees or shrubs after the 4th of July, to avoid a flush of new growth that doesn’t have time to harden before winter.
- Finish up pruning of trees and shrubs this month. Pruning too late in the season can encourage new growth that will not have time to harden off before winter sets in.
- If there is one good thing to say about the lack of rain we have been experiencing, it’s that mowing doesn’t need to be done as frequently. Actually, it’s much harder on the grass to mow it more frequently when it’s dry. Keeping your grass a little higher under these conditions will help it retain moisture.
- There is another good thing to say about the lack of rain – as far as your lawn is concerned, anyway. It is much harder for Japanese beetles to lay their eggs successfully in dry soil. That could mean fewer beetles next year (unless you’re watering your lawn, that is), and it can help your lawn later this year and early next spring. Japanese beetle larva are the grubs that eat grass roots, causing patches of brown, dead grass. For information on options for controlling grubs, take a look at the Ecological Landscape Alliance’s website.
For the Birds:
- Birds need water too! Keep your birdbaths full, and consider putting out additional baths or even filling things like overturned trash can lids or large saucers with water for them. The dry conditions are equally difficult on birds, and they are going to be looking for water wherever they can find it. Just be sure to dump the water and refill it every day, to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- Keep hummingbird feeders cleaned out and filled. Sugar water left out in the heat for a number of days can breed bacteria that is harmful to the beautiful birds visiting your feeders, so be sure to clean them out every few days.