Mid-Summer Gardening

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed annual blooming plants and hanging baskets every two weeks for prolific bloom. Keep dead flowers pinched off.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Sow seeds of perennials like columbine, coreopsis, delphiniums and cone-flowers now for planting in the fall and blooms next year.
    • Check for squash, or “stink”, bugs on squash and pumpkins. Hand-pick grey-brown adults and destroy red egg clusters on the undersides of leaves. Use pyrethrins to control heavy infestations.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.

Pinch, Snip and Shear

Grooming the flower garden is part of the regular maintenance needed to keep your flower beds looking their best all spring, summer and fall. Although summer grooming is a necessary chore, flower-garden maintenance can almost always wait until you have time for it.

A 100- to 200-square-foot flower garden needs just a few minutes of tending a week , with a couple of hours of major cleanup several times a year.

Annual flowers, like petunias and marigolds, need regular attention. They know that if they can produce enough seeds, their job is done and so they will stop blooming. To keep them blooming, snip off the faded flowers including the seed head just below the petals. This is called “deadheading”.

Perennial flowers, which come back year after year, usually bloom for a short period of about 3 weeks sometime during the spring or summer. Some plants replace flowers with really attractive seedheads. But others scatter their seeds all over the garden, and you often wind up with dozens of baby plants that you have to pull out to avoid ending up with daisies all over the garden. Cutting off flowers before they form seeds prevents this maintenance headache.

Many perennials stop blooming after they form seeds. Removing the fading flowers before they can complete the process encourages them to bloom longer. Cut the stem down to the first leaves or flower bud you come to.

If you like your flowers really big, you may want to indulge in the practice of disbudding. Before the buds start to open, remove all but one or two flower buds on each stem. The plant then directs all its energy into the remaining buds, resulting in large flowers. Gardeners commonly disbud dahlias, chrysanthemums, peonies, and carnations.

To keep perennials denser and shorter, you may want to pinch or shear them a couple of times early in the season. Pinching creates more compact, bushier plants, prevents flopping, and ensures more blooms. This process is called pinching because you can actually pinch off the top of each stem between your thumb and forefinger — but using scissors or pruning shears is sometimes quicker and easier.

Snip (or pinch) off the top few inches of the plant when it grows to a foot tall in spring and again in the middle of summer. Every stem you cut grows several new stems. The result is stocky sprays of more, but smaller, flowers. Chrysanthemums and asters are two perennials that are routinely pinched, otherwise, they tend to get floppy.

Other perennials, like helianthemums and Iberis sempervirens, that have finished flowering can be cut back so they will make more compact new growth for the following year. The tired stems of foxglove and delphinium can be cut to the ground to clean up the plants.

Grooming is a quiet time. A time to enjoy the birds and the butterflies as you enhance the beauty of your garden.