B. B. Mackey Books

Summer Gardening Tips

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Summer brings all the flowers and foliage of the season. Everyone loves to be outdoors, when the weather is warm and the garden is beautiful. Make the most of the summer garden. 

1) Let the weather work for you, not against you. If it is hot and sunny, hoe some weeds for they will dry up and die with the least effort on your part. If the weather is wet and misty, you can get away withfoxglove with campanula some summer planting without as much worry about the new plants getting sunburned or dried out.

2) Mulch it! Mulch is a great worksaver in the garden. It keeps moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from sprouting. You can use many different natural substances for mulch. Small wood or bark chips are good for smaller plants, and larger chips are best for shrubs and trees. Even pea gravel makes a nice mulch. It is a judgment call whether it looks right in a particular place. I like it as a pavement for paths, with nothing growing in it, but also as a general mulch between herb or rock garden plants, in more formal gardens.

Other mulching materials include grass clippings (use less than an inch thick), salt hay (somewhat messy looking but good in vegetable gardens). brown cardboard (cut to fit the space and cover with other mulch), peanut hulls or other regionally available materials, and compost.

3) Deadhead. Your annuals will rebloom and your perennials will look neater if you remove fading flowers and any spotty, brown, yellowed, or faded leaves. Take it all away and put it on the compost pile.

4) Apply compost. If you made compost last year, get it out and use it. Start a new pile if necessary and place any large leftovers from the other pile into it. Once they are removed you can reach that nearly black compost and use it for mulching under and around garden plants, one or two inches deep. Or mix it into potting soil and planting holes, as needed.

5) Redo containers in mid-summer. Annuals don't last forever, and some, like pansies, wilt in the heat of summer. If some of your containers are less than perky, remove the plants and replace the soil. Set in heat lovers such as coleus, zinnias, cosmos, rudbeckia, impatiens, strawflowers, caladiums, pentas, gaillardia, and lisianthus. Try something new this year.

6) Check the light levels. Those of us with shade are sometimes in denial about how much sunlight our plants receive. If you grow sun-loving annuals or perennials in too much shade, they will ?tell? you buy stretching out looking for light, and then flopping over. Increase the light by pruning nearby shrubs and trees, if that is appropriate. If not, better switch over to shade lovers such as hosta, fern, astilbe, columbine, coleus, perilla, tovara, strawberry begonia, and impatiens.

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FRUGAL FREEBIES

Save some flower seeds. The pods turn tan or brown when the seeds ripen. Plant them immediately or dry them and store them in paper envelopes. Best bets: columbine, daylily, nasturtium, marigold, silene, and foxglove. Hellebores have large seeds but you have to catch them in late spring before the pods pop.

Root some cuttings. Surprisingly fast rooters are nasturtiums, impatiens, coleus, hydrangea, willow, and hibiscus. Moist vermiculite is better than plain water but both will work. 4-inch cuttings (halfway into the potting medium) are ok for beginners. Keep the moisture level constant and wait two to three weeks before checking.