The Buzz

Summer Gardening

Summer is a time of constant weeding, watering, and watching. Warm-season weeds like crabgrass and pigweed thrive in the hot weather and can take over garden beds seemingly overnight. Be sure to remove these undesirables before they set seed to break the cycle of infestation, and mulch well, 1"-2" of your mulch of choice, to prevent new weeds from germinating. It is critical to keep newly-planted plants well watered through the hot days of summer.

Again, mulch is the key to maintaining the even moisture that these young plants require. Apply 1" of supplemental water each week in the absence of rain. Summer is also a perfect time to evaluate the performance of the plants in your garden. If plants seem to be struggling, consider relocating them to a site with more afternoon shade to reduce heat stress. Even the sun-lovers like Echinacea and daylilies will bloom well with only a half-day of sun. Established plants that seem to require more supplemental water than you are willing to apply should be removed and replaced with more drought resistant species. Our native trees and shrubs are excellent candidates.

Trees like dogwoods and redbuds readily adapt to a summer-dry period once established. Shrubs such as serviceberry and beautyberry are also very forgiving and will get on well with occasional supplemental water once established, provided they are mulched well. If space allows, consider filling in empty spaces in the perennial garden with fall vegetables. Crops such as beets, carrots, bush beans, kale, collards, turnips, and Swiss chard should be planted between the 15th of July and the 15th of August to mature during the cooler weather of fall. Many of the Asian greens such as Tatsoi and Bekana will overwinter and continue to provide nutritious greens until the warming days of spring.

Seed is available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Johnny's Seeds, John Scheeper's, and many other mail-order seed houses. Be sure to spray all cabbage family plants weekly with a Bt product such as Thuricide to control the ever-present Cabbage Butterfly larvae. This should be continued until November, when the butterflies are less active. Alternately, cover non-fruiting crops with a lightweight summer insect barrier to keep out unwanted pests. 

During very cold weather, crops can be protected with cloches or floating row covers like Reemay. Reemay and its kin are very durable and will last for years if stored dry and out of strong sunlight when not in use. Both fabrics are available from Johnny's Seeds and are well worth the investment.   Happy Gardening!  

Posted by chris cosby at 11:19 AM


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