During the long, hot days of summer, we all dream of relaxing in the garden with a cold drink. In that way, we have a lot in common with our garden plants! Humid air, scorching sunshine, and thriving pest populations all pose specific challenges to our gardens at this time of year. With these tips, your plants can enjoy a stress-free summer.
MIDSUMMER CARE FOR ANNUAL PLANTS
The peak of the summer season is also when your annuals reach their peak period of beauty. Flowering annuals are exceptionally resource-hungry at this time of year— it takes a lot out of them to grow all those gorgeous blooms! Keep them looking bright and beautiful with: Proper Watering: The sun is unforgiving in the middle of an Allentown summer, and your annuals are the first to feel it. This is the time of year when the soil’s moisture literally disappears into thin air within a matter of hours. If your annuals are looking dull or limp, you’re seeing a serious stress signal that they need water immediately. Avoid letting them get to that point by watering early in the morning while the air is still a little cool. Aim water at the soil at the base of the plant, not at the plants themselves. In-ground plants should be watered deeply 1-3 times weekly, enough that water penetrates at least six inches below the surface. Container gardens should be given enough water that a little drains out the bottom. Use mulch to slow water from evaporating, and check container soil mid-day during heat waves. There are some days when annual container gardens may need to be watered twice. Regular Deadheading: Annuals tend to produce a lot of blooms, each of which might last a few days to a few weeks. Deadheading, or pinching off those old blooms, encourages the plant to produce more flowers, and prolongs the overall blooming period. Checking for Pests and Diseases: The hot, humid days of midsummer create a perfect environment for pests and diseases to attack your plants. Some pests, like budworm caterpillars, have an affinity for eating flowers while others attack your foliage, stems, or soil. If you can’t identify a pest or disease, bring a sample of the damage to our garden center in Allentown and we can help you identify it. Please keep the sample in a sealed clear plastic container to prevent spread.
MIDSUMMER CARE FOR PERENNIALS
Perennials require a lot of the same care that annuals need, with some differences. Perennials are meant to return year after year, which means this year’s care will impact next year’s performance. Keep perennials healthy with:
Weed Management: Weeds compete with perennials for soil resources. Since weed-killing chemicals can cause damage to perennials, a strict weed management plan is very important for keeping healthy perennials. Scout your garden for weeds daily to catch new ones while they’re small. The longer they’re left and the taller they grow, the more difficult it will be to safely remove them for good.
More Deadheading: Just like annuals, perennials should be deadheaded to prolong the blooming period. However, this also improves their flowering period in future years. If “spent” blooms are left on the plant, your perennials may decide that the blooming period is finished and will focus their energy on setting seed. Deadheading perennials helps them redirect energy into developing other important structures, which will make them stronger next year.
Strategic Staking: By now, some of your perennials may be tall and a little bit top-heavy. Peonies, delphiniums, and other tall and heavy perennials benefit from staking at this time of year to keep them upright and prevent their stems from getting snapped in the wind.
MIDSUMMER CARE FOR SHRUBS
For shrubs, summer care is all about keeping the roots and twigs protected. You can keep your shrubs healthy by:
Mulching or Growing Ground Cover: Ground cover plants and mulch at the base of shrubs both help to keep shrub roots cool and retain soil moisture. Choose whichever better suits the look of your garden. Make sure shrubs get watered once per week, if the rain doesn’t beat you to it.
Keeping It Clean: Remove dead and fallen debris, like old leaves and fruit, as soon as possible. When these things decompose, they can harbor fungus and disease. Similarly, any dead or unsightly foliage still on the plant should be trimmed off and destroyed. Never compost plant material that appears diseased.
MIDSUMMER CARE FOR TREES
Trees create structure in the landscape, and yet we tend to forget about caring for them. These important steps can help your trees get stronger every year.
Watch the Base: Newly planted trees are vulnerable to competition as they establish their roots. Hand-pull weeds at the base of the tree, and remove “suckers” (or new tree branches) as close to the trunk as you can. This will help your tree focus resources on proper growth.
Check the Soil: A low soil pH can affect the strength of a tree, making it more vulnerable to infection. Correct acidic soil by adding garden lime to the soil. Our garden center experts can help you determine the correct amount for the size and species of your tree.
And, Keep Them Watered: Trees need water, too! If it’s been more than a week since the last rain, go ahead and give your trees a good drink.
While summer is the time when we’re most likely to see fast, incredible growth in Allentown gardens, our yards are still vulnerable to dehydration, disease, weeds, and insects. Protect your plants from the heat to keep them looking beautiful until the frost.