What To Trim, What To Notice, What To Do
Midsummer in the garden starts, June 24th. Things in the garden change quickly; it seems that yesterday we had tulips and dogwood, now it has all changed.
Is that what we gardeners like about the garden? It is always evolving; we always need to keep up.
Spring is Over, Summer is Here
“Any fool can make a spring garden!” That’s what gardeners say. In spring, the garden is exciting, filled with new life. You can hardly go wrong. But in midsummer in the garden, things slow down, and the garden is all about maintenance. It can be hot, sticky, boring.
So that’s why the Fitzgerald comment. We need to recognize that summer is a new beginning and get on with the work.
The plants are halfway through life; we have eaten lettuce and spinach, Early spring annuals are finished, and the perennials are setting seeds. The more delicate foliage shows a little sunburn. Gardens are rich and blooming, but they can begin to look a little blowsy about now.
What we need to do is not hard, just ordinary maintenance, but it’s time to get a little of our spring ambition back.
What Needs To Happen In Mid Summer
Start With The Basics
The first issues are weeding, watering, and deadheading. If vacation has kept you from weeding, it is time to get to it. Water is important because the heat causes plants to need more, which removes valuable nutrition from the soil. This is a particular problem with container plants. Next, add a round of time-released or liquid fertilizer.
Trim the trailing plants in containers. By now, they are extended and starting to switch from producing flowers to creating seeds. Petunias are particularly messy this time of year and will benefit from a trim.
Deadheading, Pruning, Trimming
We’ll make everything look neat but at the same time extend our garden’s bloom period. It’s time to deadhead the flowers, removing the spent ones so that more can grow and the plant will not waste energy setting seeds. Deadheading elongates the blooms of most annuals and many perennials.
Deadhead? I looked it up. Originally it meant getting into the theatre for free! Now it has lots of meanings, including trimming the flowers.
Deadheading is a bore if you let it build up. Take your morning coffee cup and clippers (clean) and do the obvious ones every day before it gets hot. Make it a calm experience, and it won’t be a chore.
When To Take More Than The Flower
In some flowers, the blossom grows on a stem, separate from the foliage. Daylilies are an example. For these, cut down the stem near the ground, the plant will look neater.
Flowers on Spikes
Like delphiniums, flowers that grow on spikes cut the spent blooms back to the unopened buds. In the case of flowers that bloom on the tips, like lavender, cut back to the leaves. Finally, if the stems on flowers like salvia are still green, just cut the flower head.
For woody plants like Coreopsis, cut back about 1/3 to 1/2 of its size to encourage new growth. Do not cut into the brown woody stems, as this can damage the plant.
For multiple blossoms on a stem, clip each blossom, then remove the whole stem. Where to clip? Trim roses back to a place at which the stem meets 5 leaves. Make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle.
Plants Not To Deadhead
For biennials and short-lived perennials, let the seed pods mature first and then cut back the stems. This will ensure that you have flowers next year.
Sun Damaged Foliage
As the summer progresses, some foliage is damaged by the sun. Hostas are an example. As the days get hotter, they get too much sun. Just cut the damaged ones back. ( If the plant has plenty of new leaves underneath, you may leave the damaged leaves a little longer to protect the young foliage from the sun.)
This is a perfect time to examine the plants for any signs of pests and disease. Do you see bugs, or honeydew, secreted by aphids and sooty mold or perhaps ants, or damage to foliage or flower? The easiest way to deal with these problems is early. At this point, you can wash insects off or remove the few damaged leaves by hand.
Regular trimmings are perfect for the compost heap. Dispose of any material from diseased or pest-infested plants. Don’t let them into the compost.
Mid Season Perennial Pruning
Many perennials will benefit from a trimming of about 1/3-1/2 of the plant size. Depending on the plant, new foliage or even fresh flowers will grow during the season. For example, Dianthus and Artemesia will produce new foliage. Coreopsis, Nepeta, and Cranesbill Geranium will create a second flush of color.
Learn Integrated Pest Management
This is well worth learning. Integrated Pest Management promotes the use of 5 progressive steps to control pests and diseases while limiting toxic materials. This is a good survey of the subject of IPM. It will help you to understand the various steps and how to use them.
Replace Lost Color
The early season annuals are finished by midsummer, the spring bulbs are gone, and some perennials have finished blooming. So fill in the bare spots with hot season annuals, consider zinnia, marigolds, and cosmos. Petunia and alyssum should have a late summer surge also.
You can add to your perennial collection now to extend that season. Plants such as cranesbill geraniums or ornamental grasses will carry the color through the fall.
Please note that perennials planted in mid-summer will require more water than those planted in spring.
You will find that heat and wind will ensure a high water demand and a high demand for fertilizer. However, do not let the plants go dry. If you see the soil pull away from the sides of the basket, the damage has been done. Instead, soak the basket in a bucket of water, which may help the plants revive.
You can reasonably expect to water hanging baskets and some containers every day. However, if you go away in summer, you may benefit from installing a drip system or slow watering containers.
Feed the hanging baskets on a regular schedule. In our tropical wet summers, we use a liquid feeder every 7 days on the end of the watering hose.
Mid Season Vegetables
In Midsummer, you can add to your vegetables to extend the harvest season. The critical fact to know is your average first frost date. Here is how to know it; enter your zip code.
Some vegetables can accept a little frost and others not at all. You can use this to count back to the planting date.
Pinch the herbs regularly. This will keep the plants bushy and prevent them from growing flowers and seeds that take energy from the plant and change the herbs’ flavor.
These herbs can be planted in midsummer to extend the season—cilantro, rosemary, chive, mint, arugula, parsley, oregano, and sage.
Wildlife will enhance your garden experience if you give them some encouragement to stay around. Ensure that water is available and the birds will frequent the garden. If you have a steady supply of nectar-producing plants, you will have butterflies and hummingbirds. They will be attracted to a good variety of plant sizes, heights, shapes, and colors. Add host plant materials for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, for example, milkweed for monarchs. This will encourage them to move in and provide you with generations of butterflies.
We are Floridians, and respect for hurricanes is ingrained in us. When northerners like us come south, we become reluctant experts. This photo is of our backyard during Hurricane Irma. There are whitecaps on the shallow ponds.
Summer, wherever your garden is located, is time for thunderstorms, hard rain, and high winds that will leave damage to the garden. Some important issues to prepare for are these:
- Pruning-regular pruning prevents dead branches at storm time
- Mulch-heavy rain washes away soil, the mulch also reduces weeds and keeps the temperature even
- New plants need to be covered during storms
- Drainage- ensure drainage leads water away from the house
- Secure planters and equipment
- Be aware of the weather
Hurricane preparation really begins long before the storm season. This post will give you some more information. This is how we get ready every summer.
Pick everything you want. Pick flowers often; pick the fruit and vegetables. It is the best thing for the plant. It is actually better to pick vegetables for the compost than to leave them on the plant.
Inspect the plants and remove any vegetables which are damaged. This will prevent the plant from wasting energy in ripening them.