During those dog days of summer, some parts of your garden may look stressed and tired. Even watering doesn’t correct the problem. There are various things that you can do now that will freshen up your gardening projects and carry you through the colder weather to come.
One of the first items to show stress are hanging baskets and bags. You may have noticed that the baskets seem to need more water, with most of the water running through the basket. What has happened is that the soil has dried up to the point that it has shrunk away from the sides of the basket. That’s why the water runs around the edges and out of the bottom of the pot.
The first step is to trim back the plants by at least one-third. This will result in the removal of some (if not all) of the flowers. The flowers will return even fuller and more plentiful. Immerse the basket in a bucket or large tub of water overnight. Some of the flowers and leaves will be submerged in water. This won’t harm the plants. Probe the soil with a stick or metal object such as a screwdriver to open waterways in the soil and break up the heavy root system.
Hang the basket or bag as before and the next time it needs watering, fertilize according to the manufacturer’s direction at half strength. Your basket will be completely rejuvenated in a week to 10 days. You can also use this method on vertical grow bags by completely submerging the flowers overnight. This may have to be repeated if the hot dry weather continues into August and September.
Another chore is to deadhead or remove spent flowers from your plants. Peonies, iris, tulips and daffodils should already have had all of the flower stalks removed. Now is the time to remove spent blossoms from geraniums, marigolds, dianthus, zinnias, salvias, coral bells and other annuals to encourage continuous blooms. Prune back past the next leaf below the bloom. Roses should be cut back to the first leaf with 5 leaflets. People who cut their flowers for bouquets often have more flowers than those that don’t cut for bouquets. More cutting equals more flowers.
Even your vegetable garden could use attention. You may need to stake or tie up tomatoes and peppers. Don’t use wire or inflexible cord; that can cut the stem of your plant and kill the plant or the portion that’s tied. A good solution is to use strips cut from old T-shirts. Tying up large plants will keep the fruit off the ground and result in less damage to the fruit.
Vining crops such as cucumbers and pole beans also can benefit from some direction with fabric ties. Clematis (such as the variety often called Sweet Autumn) is probably growing prolifically now and needs to be directed to the areas you want covered with sweet smelling blossoms this fall.
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Don’t be discouraged with your gardening efforts — just give them new life with a little attention.
Call the Master Gardeners with your questions at (319) 447-0647 or send your questions and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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