As we enter summer, we need to think about how to protect our gardens and yards from the heat and wind that can undo all of our hard work. To conserve water, moderate soil temperatures, suppress annual weed growth, and reduce soil compaction, place organic mulches around vegetables, flowers, and shrubs. Shredded cedar bark mulch is a good choice for flower beds as it knits together to be less wind prone and it ages nicely. Mulch vegetables with baled or chopped straw, partially rotted leaves, or other available organic materials.
• To rejuvenate pansies, pinch back the old flowers and leggy growth and they will last through the summer.
• Pinch back the tips of annuals when you transplant them or within a few days of setting them in the ground.
• Look at your garden center for native annuals and let them reseed themselves for a natural looking garden bed. Some examples are cornflower, amaranth, portulaca, cosmos, lantana and creeping zinnia.
• Keep your chrysanthemums compact by pinching back the tops when the stems reach about 8 to 10 inches. Repeat each time they reach that height until mid-July.
• Plant autumn-blooming perennials now, including asters, hardy mums, and sedum to ensure garden color until the first hard frost.
• Slugs love hostas. Set out shallow traps made from empty tuna cans with the rims at ground level. Fill with a mixture of sugar water and yeast or stale beer. The slugs will drink and drown.
• Plant a second crop of beans, beets, carrots, and chard. Successive plantings help space out your harvest and allow you to enjoy the harvest at its peak.
• Apply dusting sulfur to the underside of the foliage of peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes to reduce outbreaks of psyllids, the tiny pests that cause serious damage and spread diseases to other vegetable plants.
• Plant bush and pole beans every two to three weeks through June for a continuous harvest.
• Frequent watering in containers leaches nutrients out of the soil, so replenish with fertilizer high in phosphorus (the “P” in NPK).
• Direct sow seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli for fall harvest. Or, start them in small pots in a cold frame and set them in the garden after the lettuce and peas are harvested.
• Don’t feed herbs with fertilizers high in nitrogen as it will result in less pungent oils in the foliage and stems.
• Cut herbs with woody or semi-woody stems, such as thyme, sage, rosemary, hyssop, and lavender, when the new shoots are still soft and green and before they bloom. Use sharp pruning shears or scissors to avoid damaging the plants.
• Irrigate with one or two inches of water per week. Deep watering promotes healthier growth and deeper roots.
• Fertilize trees and shrubs now. This will give new growth time to “harden” before late fall cold.
• Fertilize roses with an organic-based granular fertilizer every 4 weeks to help ensure continual bloom and plant vigor.
• Native grass seed requires warm soil to germinate and become well established. Sow buffalo grass, blue grama, and other warm-season species now.
• Mow frequently and let the clippings fall to add back nutrients to the soil.
• Avoid broadcast applications of weed killer products with the herbicide dicamba near trees and shrubs because it will slowly kill them.