A GROWING CONCERN: Shift summer garden chores into high gear

SINCE I MOVED here 27 years ago, I’ve always heard, “It rains on the Fourth of July … And the next day summer begins!”

Well, it most likely will and then comes our great weather. It is now the beginning of early summer. That’s right, there are 76 more days of summer left. And just like most people who give up and think summer is over on Labor Day, so will your plants and yard if you do not perform a host of chores now.

Enough of the chit-chat. The time is short and the days are long, so here’s your list of garden jobs to do from now until Aug. 2.

1. Check your watering

We are now in a long, dry stretch and your plants must not get stressed. Double check all aspects of watering. Has vegetation grown and started to block automatic watering devices? Have driplines been clogged or severed? What about your baskets and pots? Carefully check them, and stone or driveway facings, to make sure a dry area here or there is not appearing. When you see the dried plant die from lack of water, it will be too late.

2. Cultivate and/or till

Many folks just do not understand the delicate interplay of soil to all plant functions. Now, while it is dry and hot, it is vital for all moisture to soak into — not run off — the soil. A crust has developed on your soil because natural elements of compaction — water, wind, rain, gravitation, the Sun or you stepping on it. This crust greatly slows the release of harmful gases caused by decomposition and living organisms. It also acts as a barrier blocking vital gases from the atmosphere and not allowing these gases to “charge the soil.”

Lightly cultivate your soil or till between the veggie rows and around trees to break up this crust. But do not cultivate on very hot sunny days, and when you do cultivate, immediately water. Add fertilizer to be totally professional.

3. Roses

These plants are nitrogen gluttons, so feed them and definitely keep them well-watered. This is their time! Absolutely remove all even slightly yellow or dying leaves. Make sure to prune them down enough (16 to 20 inches) and on an outward facing node when removing flowers.

4. Lilies

As lilies bloom, make sure to pull off the long anthers inside the flower. This will double the time they will bloom. Tie them up if needed and feed and water them well. As the bloom fades, cut off the flower, but keep as much foliage as possible. Feed bone meal to your lilies and all bulb-type plants in mid-August.

5. Deep water your trees

Any nice big trees, and especially fruit trees, you wish to see decades from now, need deep waterings every 3 weeks through September. On nice sunny summer days, fruit and specimen trees can transpire (release into the atmosphere) hundreds of gallons of water. Help them to keep their fruit and stay vigorous and healthy by watering enough to soak 2 feet down (4 to 5 hours of sprinkler or drip watering a day).

6. Weeds.

Be on the lookout for noxious weeds and destroy them before their seed ripens and disperses. Please get those thistle and nettle weeds out, or at least keep their flower heads cut all year to avoid spreading them. Also get rid of those grasses, clover or other isolated weeds in your garden while they are easy to pull, otherwise an intrusion becomes a mass occupancy.

7. Sharpen your mower

Your mower has worked hard the past few months and few of us have a perfectly level yard. A dull mower tears rather than cuts the grass blades. Those tears brown out in the sun, giving a dull brown look to the lawn. Take your blade off and have it sharpened. And while you’re at it, clean or change the oil, air filter and fuel filter.

8. Deadhead and pinch

I can’t explain or emphasize enough how keeping the dead flowers off and pinching back some tips with buds and flowers every week will keep your plants blooming well into November. This is also your No. 1 disease fighter. So please remember, you have to spend flowers to get flowers.

9. Shape prune

The next few weeks are perfect to shape prune your woody ornamentals. It is still early summer, so there is plenty of time for new growth to develop and mature before late fall frost could damage tender growth. This season’s new growth is also rampant, and thinning or shaping now gives a manicured look to the rest of summer.

10. Perennials

Stay on top of them. Remove their flowers and stalks when done blooming. Thin out all large leaves, and then lightly top dress with a nice dark black compost. Cultivate and fertilize for a guaranteed stellar repeat performance. Don’t forget bone meal in mid-August.

11. The veggie garden

Right now is the absolute perfect time to sow new rows of beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, beets and spinach, even green onions. And if you lay down new rows of edible or sweet peas this week, you will have a stupendous early fall harvest. The vegetable garden has its best months ahead, in fact; go buy seed today.

12. Disease and pestilence

Be ever diligent now in your observation of the garden. Find those bug infestations in the first few days. Cut off or throw away and treat areas immediately before a few aphids ruin all the dahlias or cause the fruit trees to abort their fruits.

13. Lavender Festival

The time is soon to get up and enjoy the day at the Lavender Festival in Sequim, July 15 to 17. Tantalize your senses at wonderful farms and at a great street fair. Gather ideas for your own garden, meet new people and just immerse yourself in a horticultural extravaganza. If you can’t make it, then check out some other gardens in the next few weeks. They will be peaking in color and ideas, all for your pleasure.

And do stay well, all.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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