With summer well underway, the attention of even the most avid gardener turns to such activities as hiking, golfing, fishing, swimming or simply sitting on the lawn at Tanglewood contemplating the great mysteries of life, such as who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop.
Even when one's attention returns to gardening, the focus is on maintenance tasks including weeding, mowing lawns or harvesting vegetables. Perhaps the last task to enter one's mind is planting.
"What? Planting in this hot weather?"
You betcha! In some ways, this is a very good time to plant. For one, nurseries and garden centers often have great bargains on plants now, as they try to reduce their inventory. Also, since most trees, shrubs and perennials are container grown, they are easy to transplant.
While planting woody and herbaceous perennials in July seems sensible, the logic of planting of annual flowers now is more difficult to accept. If it seems late in the season, it is, but there are still about 10 or more weeks of growing season left for most annuals. Unfortunately, annuals still available for purchase are often shabby looking -- you would be too if confined to a tiny cell for the past four months. However, don't let that discourage you from passing up a bargain. Here are some tips:
n Use a fork to tease apart the entangled roots after removing plants from their containers. A little bit of root pruning with scissors is OK, but don't get carried away.
n Prune back elongated shoots, including those with flowers, to create a bushy plant.
n Water the plants and the garden site about an hour before transplanting.
n Transplant late in the evening or on a cloudy day. Shading the plants for a few days after transplanting with a simple shade of lath or light-weight row cover placed above the plants.
n Apply a quick release fertilizer, preferably a water soluble fertilizer to the plants about a week after transplanting.
n Pray that Khloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, will take pity on your annuals.
Hopefully, Kloris will take pity on us gardeners as we wrestle with these tasks:
n Keep weeding. This is very important during hot, dry weather because vegetable crops and flowers compete with weeds for soil moisture. The pulled weeds can be a source of organic matter for your gardens. Bury the weeds in the garden if they are not diseased or have seedheads or rhizomes (underground runners).
n Continue to bank soil up and around leeks to keep the stems white.
n Leave the plants intact after harvesting the central head on broccoli and cabbage. These plants will develop additional but smaller heads. Broccoli will immediately begin developing side shoots with small heads for harvest. On cabbage, small heads will develop at the base of old leaves but will not be ready for harvest until late summer.
n Cut shoots from thyme and oregano for drying. The flavor of these herbs is intensified when the stems are dried.
n Look for bean beetles and Japanese beetles on green beans, squash bugs on winter squash and pumpkins, and cucumber beetles on cucumbers. Check undersides of plant leaves as well as the top. Eggs of these insects typically occur on undersides of leaves; crush the eggs. In most home gardens, insecticides may not be needed since the beetles can be easily handpicked.
n Take a daily and early morning tour of flower gardens. Check plants for spent flowers and deadhead -- remove these. Daylilies especially need daily deadheading to look their finest. Also, cut back by half the stems of perennial geraniums, salvias, catmints, veronicas and lady's mantle after they have completed their bloom. Give them a deep watering, a little garden fertilizer, and apply organic mulch if they are not now mulched. This treatment will invigorate the plants and may lead to a second bloom.