It’s mid summer and the heat is on! Some of your plants may be showing signs of heat stress. Leaves may wilt. Vegetables like lettuce and spinach may bolt (flower prematurely) or in the case of plants you want to blossom, like peppers or watermelon, they may drop blossoms, reducing yield. Here are a few tips to help your garden withstand the hottest part of the summer:
1. Watch- Plants will often tell you when they are needing water. Lawns will turn a bluish green and show footprints that don’t rebound. Bean leaves will turn a darker green and begin to wilt. Most plants will perform better if you don’t allow them to wilt before watering, so check your garden every day and observe their needs.
2. Water- It’s true that you need to water more often during hot weather, but first check the soil. The surface may look dry even though there is plenty of moisture in the root zone. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering, so don’t over do it. Slow, deep watering will insure that water soaks down to the roots. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems work well. If using a hose that has been laying in the sun, be sure to let it run for a minute or two, until cool water comes out.
3. Mulch- A couple of inches of organic mulch like compost, grass clippings, or bark mulch will help reduce moisture loss and cool the soil temperature. A side benefit is that it prevents most weeds from germinating, too.
4. Shade- Cover cool weather veggies like lettuce and spinach with shade cloth. It won’t totally prevent bolting, but it could delay it a bit. Also, raise your lawn mower blade up so that you have 3 inches of grass left standing after you mow. This will provide shade for the roots of your lawn keeping them cool and much happier (which means a greener lawn).
5. Don’t spray chemicals during heat- Avoid spraying garden chemicals when temperatures are above 85 degrees. Weed killers can volatilize (evaporate and become air borne) and drift onto desirable plants. Insecticides can burn leaves of plants when temps are above 85. Spray early in the morning when temps are cooler and the air is still, or wait
Severe hail damage is devastating and discouraging. First of all – take a deep breath and don’t despair. Many times plants will recover from some hail damage, other times there will be no recovery and replanting will be necessary. Here are steps to consider:
• Do a general clean-up of the area and remove the damaged parts of plants – trim off any hanging stems and remove the debris in the area.
• If all that remains are stems, trim them back by half and they will possibly releaf.
• Lightly cultivate the soil around the damaged plants. The force of hail and heavy rain compacts the soil and leaves a hard crusty layer at the surface – gently cultivate to break up the crusty layer.
• Avoid the urge to immediately fertilize the damaged plants. Give them a chance to develop new growth. After a week to 2 weeks fertilize with fish emulsion or seaweed extract. After they have resumed active growth, regular fertilization can resume.
In many instances, hail damage is a Mother Nature “pruning” of the plant. Remember that pruning stimulates growth, and many plants can recover. There will be those that are beyond repair and will have to be replaced.
There are many ways to protect plants from hail to come. Invert cardboard boxes, buckets or pots, over your plants. Hail netting is a great way to protect plants. Use stakes to hold it above the foliage of your plants. It’s durable and lasts for years. Because it allows water and sunlight to pass through the netting, it can be left over plant for a time, safely.
Planning for continuing color through the season is one of the most challenging aspects of gardening. Planting bulbs in the fall is one of the best ways to begin the succession of bloom that can begin as early February depending on the weather.
Imagine having flowers to admire while winter is still on the calendar. Snowdrops and early crocus are usually the first cheerful reminders that spring is on the way. They are succeeded in the following weeks by many of the other minor bulbs including Iris reticulata, striped squill and the early flowering botanical tulips. For the best display of these early bulbs plant them in groups of 20 to 50.
Daffodils and tulips are the focus during the weeks of high spring. There is always room to tuck in new varieties that will provide pleasure for years to come. You will find early, mid-season and late varieties of tulips and daffodils, so be sure to plant some of each. Other spring flowering bulbs to consider are hyacinths, alliums and frittilarias for their unique flowers.
The alliums (ornamental onions) will continue flowering into the summer and develop interesting seed heads for additional interest. The Asiatic and oriental lilies are the stars of the summer gardens with their bright, jewel-toned flowers and elegant foliage. As temperatures cool and the colors of fall return the autumn crocus and colchicum bring a surprising finale of rich color to the garden.
Bulbs are packages of promise for gardeners. The rewards arrive as each of the packages opens and flowers, each to its season. Plant bulbs this fall for next years color and for future years as well.