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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


To-Do List: Zone 5

Susan Wells
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Click the image to enlarge this map of the USDA Plant Hardiness Map and find the zone where you live.

The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between watering. Deep watering will allow the plant’s roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out. This is especially true of young trees and shrubs during their first growing season. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil. The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to insure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants. For deep rooted plants or young trees and shrubs, water to a depth of six inches or more. Drip hoses are a good option for newly planted trees or shrubs. Water for an hour or more every few days if the soil is dry and drought damage is seen.



  • For best quality, harvest vegetables in the cool of the morning or later in the evening.  Avoid the heat of the day.
  • Harvest potatoes when the tops turn yellow and fall down.
  • Keep cucumbers well watered.  Drought conditions will cause bitter fruit.
  • Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown.
  • In late July or early August set out broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants for the fall garden.   Also sow seed of collards, kale, sweet corn, summer squash, carrots, beets and turnips for the fall garden. Buy the short season varieties for best results in this zone.
  • If the majority of the onion plant tops have fallen over, pull the bulbs up, clip the tops off and let them dry/cure for about 10 days on screens over the garden plot where they were grown.

Flowers (general)

  • Keep up with dead-heading chores on annuals and perennials and remove the seed pods if you don’t want to pull out an army of new seedlings in the spring.
  • Powdery mildew often attacks plants in late summer.  Plants often attacked by the gray fungus are lilac, apple, oak, rose, phlox, dahlia, zinnia and mums.  If you’ve had mildew in the past, fungicidal sprays should be applied before the fungus is visibly present on the plants.


  • Annuals need about an inch of water a week, either from rain or irrigation. Try watering once a week, soaking the soil to a depth of several inches.
  • Remove spent blooms and yellowing leaves, and cut back spindly growth on salvias, begonias, and impatiens.
  • Get a second bloom from faded annuals by cutting them back by one half their height, then fertilize them with a liquid 5-10-10 fertilizer. Make sure the plants are not in need of water, or the fertilizer could burn them.
  • Control slugs by spraying them with a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar, or sprinkle a ring of diatomaceous earth around the base of plants. Do not spray the vinegar solution directly on plants.



  • Deadhead spent blooms unless seed production is desired.
  • If you plan to put in new perennial beds this fall, have your soil tested and amend as recommended. Generally, soil should be amended a few months before planting begins.
  • Newly planted perennials should receive one inch of water a week during the growing season, either from rain or through irrigation
  • Established perennials usually do not need supplemental watering. However, if they start to wilt before noon, give them a deep soaking.
  • Iris can be divided at the end of July.  This is a great opportunity to share or trade with another iris lover who may have a particular one you have admired. Dig rhizomes and soak them overnight to plump them up and remove the soil. Then pot them up for sharing or plant back in the garden.
  • Chrysanthemums should be lightly fertilized every two weeks. Discontinue pinching your mums in mid-month so they will be able to develop flower buds for the fall. To promote a few really large flowers, allow only one or two main shoots to develop. Remove all side buds as they begin to develop.
  • To produce the largest Dahlia flowers (especially ‘Dinner plate’ Dahlias), the main stems should be kept free of side shoots, allowing only the main terminal bud to develop. Be sure to provide adequate support to prevent wind damage.

Trees/ Shrubs


  • It may become necessary to cover fruit trees and berry bushes with netting to protect fruit from the birds.
  • Throughout the normally dry months of July and August, periodically soak shrubs to the depth of 8-10 inches if rain doesn’t provide enough water.
  • Mulch around trees to reduce mower injury and conserve moisture, but be sure to keep mulch pulled back from the base of the tree.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs will need a total of one inch of water a week during the growing season.
  • Dead head the developing seed pods from your rhododendrons and azaleas to improve next year’s bloom. Be careful not to damage next year’s buds which may be hidden just below the pod.
  • Fertilize flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas as well as camellias immediately after they have finished flowering with a ‘Rhododendron’ or ‘Evergreen’ type fertilizer.
  • When mowing and trimming weeds around trees, be careful not to make contact with the trees. Wounds from mowers and string trimmers allow borers and other insects to enter and become a problem. This is especially true for dogwoods, flowering peach, plum, and cherry trees.
  • Through month’s end, softwood cuttings of Buddleia, weigela, rose-of-Sharon and roses, among other shrubs, can be taken to propagate more plants inexpensively.


  • Cool season grasses may go dormant during the hot weather, but will revive as the temperatures cool.
  • Water frequently enough to prevent wilting.  Early morning watering allows turf to dry before nightfall and will help prevent disease.
  • Check lawns for newly hatched white grubs.  If you find an infestation, take appropriate control measures.
  • Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower by 1 to 1 1/2 inches in mid-summer to help your lawn survive the heat and dry periods. Leave the clippings on the lawn.


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