First Aid for Summer Gardens

The sun and heat takes a toll on all of us during the summer, and can especially be hard on the garden. From leggy petunias to green geraniums and drought-ridden plants, it can be rough on all your plants. Here are a few first aid tips to keep your garden looking its very best all summer long.

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The first tip is fertilizing.  We can’t stress this enough during the summer time.  With the warm weather and sunshine, plants are doing a lot of growing. When the heat comes it puts a lot of stress on them and they burn out of energy.  Fertilizing on a regular basis helps keep your plants looking healthy, lush and blooming.

Specific fertilizers can also help with problems we see pop up during the summer months. We often see the foliage on plants turning a bright, lime green versus the darker green that they should be.  This is due to a lack of iron.  Find a garden food that contains iron and sprinkle some of this on your plant. In no time, they will turn back to their natural green color.

The heat can also cause stress on blooming plants like geraniums.  Using a fertilizer that is high in phosphate, the middle number, will keep blooms coming all summer long. Using a water soluble fertilizer is best for this, and we recommend using it every fourth watering to get the optimal performance from your plant. You can do it more often, but be sure to cut down on the amount of fertilizer you use, so you do not burn the plant.

During the summer months, some of the trailing plants like petunias and alyssum can grow to look leggy. They have long, spindly stems and are not as beautiful as when they were first planted.  If this is the case, we recommend cutting them back. Yes, it is good to dead-head them, but to get them to bush out some more, we recommend cutting them back to where there is only 3-4 inches left of the plant.  From there the plant will bush out and appear fuller and much happier.

Watering is key with plants, especially in the heat.  In the summer however, most of us travel for at least a weekend here or there, and sometimes longer.  If you come back from vacation and notice that your plants are laying flat and wilted from drought, don’t give up!  If it’s a hanging basket, which often dry out the quickest, try filling a bucket up with water and dumping the whole basket down into it. If it is a larger pot, water it really well, about three or four times, and let that water soak in.  Drenching the plants after a drought should help them revive themselves, as long as it hasn’t been in the drought stage for too long.  If you notice your plants are not perking back up, then it may be time to replace them.

Finally, much like with mosquitos coming out during the summer to bother us, bugs and other diseases pop up during the summer months to bother our plants.   With lots of rain and cooler nights like we have had, powdery mildew may be popping up in your yard where plants don’t have enough air circulation to dry out.  There are different sprays you can use on mildew to help get rid of it, and while giving plants enough space surrounding them for air circulation can help prevent it, the weather determines if it will affect your garden at all.

Bugs like aphids and spider mites come out this time of year as well.  They thrive in the heat but can be treated with insecticides and sprays fairly easily.  Other bugs that may munch on your plants after we get lots of rain are slugs.  If you notice small holes in the leaves of your plants, be sure to get a product like Bonide’s Slug Magic or Ortho’s Bug-Geta to take care of these.  It’s a granule that you shake around the base of the plants and it will keep slugs off your plants.

While summer is our growing season, the weather can take a toll on your garden.  With a little bit of first aid, however, your garden will be lush and beautiful all summer long.

Christian Goers