A GROWING CONCERN: Constant vigilance increases garden health

WITH LAST WEEK’S column, I now embark on my third decade of writing about gardening.

My first column was published July 2, 1997.

So 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 that was explained to you two 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 blooms, 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, fungi, 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 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 the water penetrates the soil, toxic gases are forced upward and out.

One only needs watch any flower pot you ever have filled with water to see this phenomenon as it bubbles profusely while the 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 resembles asphalt.

That 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 gases 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 and out with the bad.”

Your soil will have garden emphysema — which is not a good thing.

You must cultivate or hoe every few weeks, not only for proper soil health, but for a weed-free garden without chemicals as well.

And because we are on this garden-healthy kick, for a longer duration of bloom, be very vigilant about disease and bugs.

Now that your plants are large and getting bigger, many areas of foliage lie in dark, stagnant areas which is an ideal environment for pestilence.

The warms days only add to the 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 like.

Pull out the 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 have coming on in August, September and October vibrant.

If you deadhead, pinch, cultivate, keep diseases down and fertilize, the next three months will be your best.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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