AS I NOW begin my third decade of gardening advice, information and anecdotes, let us all begin today by performing a few tasks that will put in place the process of guaranteeing gorgeous seasons of beautiful blooms.
Without question, your first task is to diligently keep up with the deadheading and pinching, work that was explained to you a few weeks ago.
Now that the daylight is diminishing, flowers with old blossoms and seed pods will give up the ghost in order to reproduce, thus rapidly deteriorating if you do not pick off the old blossoms, so please be faithful to this essential chore.
Proper soil tilth is the next critical concern as we now head into the depth of summer.
Soil is best to be considered as a living organism and in fact, it is filled with macro and microscopic life.
The living components of worms, fungus, insects and microbes need various atmospheric conditions in order to survive.
In simple terms, your soil must breathe in order to stay healthy.
But how does this translate into a job for you?
Quite simply, the answer is by cultivating.
All soil, especially your soil, forms a crust on its surface, and herein lies the problem.
In order for your “living” soil to breathe, water must be able to easily and uniformly flow in, down and through the topsoil.
As water penetrates the soil, toxic gases are forced upward and out.
One only needs to watch any flower pot you have ever filled with water in order to see this phenomenon as it bubbles profusely while water soaks in.
If you listen closely, you can observe the second part of this action as the water travels through the soil.
As summer wanes on, it has been weeks since you dug into the dirt, and by now some soils resemble asphalt.
This is why you need to add lots of organic material each year to your gardens.
This naturally occurring crust greatly inhibits water from flowing downward, therefore the toxic gasses are held in the soil because the water just runs off.
This crust also acts as a barrier for these harmful gases to seek their own way up and out of the soil because most are lighter than air
By not cultivating, there is no “in with the good air, out with the bad.” Your soil will have garden emphysema — which is not a good thing.
Cultivate or hoe every few weeks, not only for proper soil health, but a weed-free garden without chemicals as well.
And since we are on this healthy garden kick, for longer duration of bloom, be very vigilant of disease and bugs.
Now that your plants are large and getting bigger, many areas of foliage lie in dark, stagnant areas which are an ideal environment for pestilence.
The warm days only add to this problem, and soon the dew points will aid in spreading this problem like wildfire.
Look down deep into the plants and remove dead or yellow leaves.
Cut away any and all dead or slightly dying areas or plant parts filled with aphids or the likes.
Pull out plants that are in very poor shape, or they will stay that way and breed the problem.
And finally, add a little organic fertilizer to the soil, preferably a 50/50 mix of bone meal and blood meal, in order to keep all the new growth you will have coming on in late August, September and October vibrant.
If you deadhead, pinch, cultivate, keep disease down and fertilize, the next two months will be your best.
Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson countiesnationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).