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Lawn & Garden

Midsummer gardening tips

7/18/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

GREATER AKRON — Age happens while you are trying to garden — that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it. Excuse for what, you ask? Um ... er ... it’s kinda sorta the reason why I’ve only just now turned the back corner of the house to finally tackle spring cleanup chores in my backyard garden. Yes, I did mean spring chores, since the front and side yards are finally finished.

No chuckling from the younger members of the gardening community, please. Your turn will come soon enough when the body slows while the garden quickly grows.

And a gracious thank you to those knowing readers of a certain age who are nodding in commiseration.

In any event, here is a list of midsummer gardening chores and tips for all youthful overachievers to tackle before dashing off for a jog, swim or marathon:

  • Keep a sharp eye every day for any plant-chomping insects and deal with the issue immediately.
  • With all the rain we’ve had this month, plants may experience rapid growth and start setting fruit a bit sooner than normal. Apply a light side-dressing of nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Likewise, once the dry heat of summer truly sets in, keep in mind that gardens need 1 inch of rain or water weekly. Water early in the morning during dry spells.
  • Container gardens sometimes need watering more than once per day in hot weather. They also will benefit from an application of all-purpose liquid plant food.
  • Apply a layer of straw or other mulch between vegetable rows to keep down weeds that steal nutrients from the soil.
  • Change out the water in your bird baths often to eliminate all sources of stagnant water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Sow seeds now for a fall harvest of lettuce, spinach, radish, beets and turnips.
  • Pinch or cut back those perennials that will favor you with a second flush of bloom, such as tall garden phlox and delphinium.
  • Stake overgrown perennials to keep their faces out of the dirt.
  • Fertilize your roses.
  • Fertilize chrysanthemums lightly about every two weeks. Stop pinching mums before the end of July so they begin to develop flower buds for fall bloom.
  • Set your mower blade to its highest setting during dry weather since grass grows more slowly in the heat.
  • Keep annuals deadheaded to encourage more flowering. Pull out any dried-up plants to keep the garden tidy and fresh looking.
  • Cut back leggy annuals by one-half and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer to encourage a second bloom.
  • Turn the compost pile.
  • In late July or early August, divide and transplant bearded iris. Discard the old center portion of the rhizomes and replant the vigorous side shoots. Discard any parts that are shriveled or diseased. Cut back the leaves at an angle to about 6 inches.
  • Sow biennial seeds now for next year’s flowers such as foxgloves, violas, Canterbury bells and sweet William.
  • Carefully inspect trees and shrubs, especially after the recent heavy storms. Prune out any dead, damaged or diseases branches.
  • Other than iris, avoid dividing or transplanting at this time of year. The shock of transplanting along with the high heat can set the plants back for weeks or even cause them to die.
  • Take stock of the overall look of your garden and plant some new container-grown perennials in spots that need freshening. Use extra care when planting at this time of year. Mulch well, keeping it away from the base of the plant and supply adequate water.
  • Remember, water is the most important element of an overall successful garden in the heat of summer. Do so early in the morning, and avoid wetting foliage.
  • Freshen mulch as needed to reduce weed growth, conserve moisture, reduce erosion and tidy the appearance of the garden.
  • Do not fertilize perennials and woody plants that are under stress from drought. Give them water, not fertilizer. Fertilize only productive, strong-growing vegetables and annuals.
  • Give some TLC to tired-looking plants. Prune them back to encourage new growth, then supply adequate water to help encourage the production of new leaves. Sometimes plants may even flower a second time with such care.
  • Harvest vegetables regularly to keep more vegetable production going.
  • Weed often. If the weeds are tough to pull out, which they often are this time of year, use a scuffle hoe to cut them off at the surface of the soil. Mulch also will help to discourage weed seeds from sprouting.
  • Pour white vinegar on weeds sprouting from between patio bricks to kill them.
  • Pour boiling water on anthills to kill them.
  • Water the areas in your lawn frequently where pets relieve themselves to help keep the grass from dying.
  • Scatter a weed seed preventive in areas of the flower bed that you do not mulch.
  • Trim spent flower heads from rose canes. Gather the trimmings and all detritus from the plant that has fallen to the ground to discourage disease. Toss it in the trash, not the compost pile.
  • Some hosta flowers are unattractive. Don’t wait for the blooms to finish. Trim the flower stalks now. Cut the stem lower than surrounding plant foliage for a tidier appearance.

For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Hotline Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3.

Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and coursework in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a Master Gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.

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