Zone 6 cuts a wide and diverse swath across the middle of the country, curling up before it hits the west coast to take in inland parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some of the richest farmland in the world is at home in Zone 6. Deep rich topsoil and a relatively long growing season in many parts of the zone makes it a gardener’s dream. It can be very hot in many parts of Zone 6 in July, so heed advice about keeping your plants well mulched, well watered and protected from drying winds. Otherwise, enjoy the bounty of beauty and food your Zone 6 garden provides.
- Plant succession plantings of pole, Lima, and bush beans; plant winter squash. Replace bolted lettuce or other greens with corn or beans.
- Continue to harvest herbs. If you are drying them, rinse and dry them before hanging (in brown paper bags). Another alternative is to rinse herbs, chop them & place them in ice cube trays filled with water, to be used later in soups, roasts and stews.
- Cut fresh mint for a refreshing twist on a cool drink.
- Plant Malabar spinach (Basella alba), which, unlike other spinaches, can handle the heat. It will also handle the cold, as will other leafy greens, such as kale, Swiss chard, cabbage and collards.
- Trap slugs with a pie pan of beer in the garden.
- If you don’t have a bird bath, keep an old bowl with fresh water available and visible for the birds. Float some wood chips in it to make it available for bees and other pollinators, as well. It will help your tomatoes by keeping birds from pecking them for the moisture.
- Do not allow standing water to breed mosquitoes. Home Depot sells ‘Mosquito Dunks,’ which can be added to bird baths, ponds and rain barrels.
- Mulch to reduce weeds and evaporation. Consider planting a living mulch of creeping thyme around the base of vegetables. Otherwise, use leaves, straw or compost. Make sure your veggie plants get plenty of lime and nitrogen, as mulches can use up both as they decompose.
- Seeds sown directly into the soil seem to produce stronger plants. Get ready to direct seed your fall crops. The huge benefit of fall plantings is that we are missing some of the hungriest pests that show up in our spring gardens.
- Broadcast zinnia seeds in the flower beds for late season blooms.
- Lantana is a butterfly magnet. Have as much around the garden as you have space for.
- Petunias thrive in hot spots and have vibrant colors.
- Deadhead ‘Monarda’ (bee balm) for better blooms
- Lightly feed with compost your Joe-Pye weed and late blooming day lilies, salvias and garden phlox.
- Remember that compost feeds the soil, not the plants (though they benefit from it). Look for compost bins in the outdoor garden center at Home Depot.
- Feed your ‘Knock Out’ roses for the last time this summer. It is also not too late to plant garlic along side of the roses to keep bugs off and provide a tasty harvest in the fall. Lightly prune your roses to maintain good air circulation.
- Prune heavy branches of your butterfly bushes to keep them from breaking. Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood (ideally they were pruned in the spring, as well.) Keep them deadheaded and they will continue to produce blooms.
- Pull mulch away from the trunks of trees leaving about six inches between the bark and mulch. This will help keep down pest infestation and fungal diseases.
- Make sure that young trees do not dry out during long spells without rain. Deep watering = deep roots. Water newly planted trees an inch per week for the first growing season to establish a strong tree.
- Pick up dropped fruit from the ground and use or dispose of appropriately.
- Feed your lawns sparingly. Too much fertilizer forces new growth, which tends to be weak and will need extra water and additional mowing. Work toward building healthy soil by adding organic mixes to it, before or after core aerating the lawn. Spread compost no more than 1/4″ over the lawn surface. Following with aerating, and water thoroughly.
- Be careful to not let your weeds go to seed. Use a broadleaf herbicide or broadcast corn gluten over the lawn as an organic alternative. It is high in nitrogen and prevents the seeds of annual weeds from sprouting. The downside is that it encourages the growth of perennial weeds.
- Keep mower blades sharpened. Dull blades tear the grass, weakening it and increasing the surface entry for fungus.
- Avoid mowing when the grass is wet.
When shopping for a replacement mower this year, check out the mulching mowers available at your neighborhood Home Depot.