Jan’s online garden hints

Jan’s July Tips

-Rejoice if you see blossoms covered with insects that look like lightning bugs. These soldier beetles are good guys, helping control many kinds of insect pests.

-Don’t hesitate to gather armloads of cosmos, lisianthus, salvia, spider flower, zinnia and other annuals for bouquets; the more you cut, the more these plants will bloom.

-In dry weather, water container plants often, even daily. About once a week, add a low dose of liquid fertilizer to the water to replace nutrients washed away by regular watering. To keep smaller outdoor containers from drying out so quickly, set each pot inside a larger pot and pack the space between them with something that will hold moisture, such as damp leaves or moss.

-When hosta blossoms fade, cut off the flower stalks to spare the plants the extra energy needed to make seed pods.

-Remove any streaked or yellowed leaves of daylilies, both to improve the plants’ appearance and to help control disease. Also remove flower stalks when blooming stops.

-Remove portions of iris leaves that have leaf-spot disease.

-Snip off faded roses to encourage new blooms and keep plants tidy.

-Keep powdery mildew at bay by watering disease-prone plants such as beebalm, garden phlox, and zinnia when the weather is dry. Water the soil, not the leaves, and thin plants to allow better air circulation.

-When the flowers of perennial geraniums fade and the plants start to look ratty, shear off old growth. Improve the appearance of annual geraniums by picking off dead flowers and any yellowed leaves.

-Use shears to speed the removal of spent blossoms from prolific bloomers such as coreopsis and dianthus.

-If Silver Mound artemisia flops open, exposing the center of the plant, cut the stems back halfway.

-If the foliage of perennials such as anise hyssop (Agastache species) and yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata) is disfigured by the feeding of four-lined plant bugs, simply prune off the affected leaves and allow fresh new foliage to grow.

-Renew straggly-looking petunias by pinching back the longest shoots, a few at a time.

-After the Fourth of July, refrain from pinching back chrysanthemum shoots.

-If tuberous begonias develop yellow patches on the leaves, dust the foliage with sulfur to control begonia mites.

-When lily blossoms fade, clip off the entire seed head. Leave the rest of the stalk and the leaves to help build a bigger bulb.

-Don’t fret if flowering of cool-loving plants such as osteospermum, nemesia or Swan River daisy temporarily stops in hot weather. Clip off any dead flowers and expect to see a new round of blooms when the weather cools.

 

-Don’t worry if bleeding heart collapses and appears to die; it’s normal for this perennial to go dormant in hot weather.

-For dried winter bouquets, gather small bunches of “everlastings” such as baby’s breath, statice and strawflowers when the blooms first open. Secure the stems with a rubber band and hang them upside-down to dry in a dark, airy place.

-Handpick Japanese beetles on roses, hibiscus, and other plants into a pail of soapy water early in the morning, when the beetles are still sluggish.

-Take a walk after dark to enjoy the way pale-colored flowers and silver-leafed plants shine in the moonlight.

Vegetables, fruits, herbs:

-Don’t panic if your first ripe tomato has a rotten bottom. Blossom-end rot is a problem that usually cures itself as the season progresses. Promote even soil moisture by watering in dry weather and keeping the plants mulched, steps that also help prevent cracking of the fruit.

-If tomato hornworms are devouring the foliage of your tomato plants, handpick them or spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), widely available wherever garden products are sold. An exception: If you find one of the big worms with tiny, white wiggly creatures on its back, do nothing. These are the larvae of tiny parasitic wasps which are already at work controlling the hornworms for you.

-If a squash vine suddenly wilts, examine the stem for what looks like a pile of sawdust surrounding a tiny hole. If you find this sure sign of vine borers, use a syringe to inject a liquid solution of Bt into the hole. Then mound soil over the injured part of the stem.

-Avoid bitter-tasting cucumbers by watering the plants during dry spells.

-To keep cabbage heads from splitting in wet weather, give each plant a half turn to break a few of the roots.

-Protect lettuce from baking in hot sun by suspending a piece of lightweight shade cloth over the plants.

-Plant a “second chance” vegetable garden for fall harvest, with beet, bulb-type fennel, bush bean, carrot, cucumber, kohlrabi and zucchini seeds. (Wait until early August to plant lettuce, radish, turnip and spinach seeds.) If you have empty space available, sow a cover crop of buckwheat. Plan to till it into the soil in six to eight weeks for “green manure.”

-Pick beans, cucumbers and zucchinis every two or three days to keep the crops coming. Harvest eggplants as soon as each one looks glossy and is firm enough that pressing your finger tips leaves only a slight depression. Harvest sweet corn as soon as the silks dry on top of each fat ear. To prevent damage from corn earworms, use a small oil can filled with mineral oil to apply 5 or 6 drops to the tip of each ear when the silks begin to brown.

-Pull mulch snug around potato plants to protect developing tubers from sunlight.

-Stay out of the garden when the foliage is wet to avoid spreading fungus diseases.

-Keep tall asparagus plants from toppling by pushing 6-foot garden stakes into the row at 6- to 8-foot intervals, then “corral” the plants between two strands of twine tied to the stakes.

-Use a soaker or “weeper” hose to deliver water directly to the roots to help foliage stay healthy and to avoid losing water to evaporation.

-For best flavor, harvest herbs regularly, before they go to seed. If flowers form on herbs such as basil and oregano, clip them off. Harvest herbs as soon as the morning dew dries but before the hot sun cooks out the flavor.

-Multiply your English lavender by “layering.”   Bend each stem down to the soil. Hold it in place by setting a small stone or a mound of soil on the middle part of the stem to help new roots form where the stem is in contact with the soil. Increase your chances that you won’t lose your English lavender over winter, since the young plants produced by layering are less likely to die than the older mother plants.

-Renew June-bearing strawberries: With the mower blade set as high as possible, mow off the patch. Then spread a slow-release fertilizer and a 1-inch layer of compost. If you have day-neutral strawberries, keep them mulched and watered but wait until fall to fertilize.

-For maximum sweetness, wait to pick fully-colored blueberries until they fall easily into your hand. Keep the plants covered with bird netting until harvest ends. Pick off and destroy any “mummies.”

-As soon as summer-bearing raspberries are through producing, cut at ground level all canes that produced fruit. Allow young, non-producing canes to remain for next year’s crop.

-Spray peaches with wettable sulfur at the first sign of brown rot.

-Remove any water sprouts from fruit trees.

Around the yard:

-Collect rainwater from a downspout into a rain barrel equipped with a spigot, overflow fitting and cover.

-Dump standing water from buckets, plant saucers, reservoirs in self-watering pots, toys, and any other places where mosquitoes might breed. If you can’t dump the water, add a Mosquito Dunk.

-If you don’t have room for a compost pile, substitute a heavy-duty plastic bag. Fill the bag with spent plants, weeds (without seeds) and other yard and garden wastes. Add a little garden soil and sprinkle the contents with water. Hide the bag under an evergreen or shrub and give the contents several months to “cook.”

-Attract insect-eating birds to the garden by keeping the birdbath filled with fresh, clean water.

-Keep the water garden looking its best by pinching off faded water lily blossoms and removing yellow leaves. Also thin out any floating plants as often as needed to keep them from taking over the water surface.

-If you have an automatic sprinkling system, be sure to make adjustments when the weather changes. Remember that too much water is just as fatal to plants as too little.

-Despite hot weather, don’t hesitate to plant container-grown perennials, shrubs and trees but do water them often in dry weather the first few weeks they’re in the ground.

-When mixing any pesticide, substitute rainwater for tap water whenever possible. Also mix only as much as you need and avoid storing any leftovers in spray bottles.

-Help your bluegrass survive the heat by keeping the height of the mower’s cutting blade set at 3 inches. Mow as often as necessary to follow the one-third rule: Remove no more than one-third the height of the grass blades. In dry weather, conserve water by allowing the grass to go dormant. Know that the grass will green up again as soon as rains return.