Summertime ♩ ♪ ♬ and the Gardening’s Easy (said no gardener ever)

Remember how excited we all were when spring finally sprung?  Planting flowers and veggies and fruits, weeding and mulching and enjoying every minute of it!  Well, it’s July and that “go get ’em” enthusiasm left the building with Elvis when the first heatwave arrived.  Your garden has faced some challenges, from minor neglect (remember when you left town for a few days?) to oppressive heat. So let’s try to tackle some of those issues as simply as possible.  Don’t give up…YET!

HANGING BASKET DROOP:  This is an easy one!  Give it a trim!  All the way around the sides and top.  Just cut off a couple of inches and it will grow back much fuller and healthier.

BLOSSOM-END ROT:

BER2 Blossom-end rot is a physiolocial problem, brought on by irregular watering (too much rain, for example) and deters the plant from getting the calcium it needs to thrive.   Once it has started on your tomatoes, squash or peppers, remove the affected ones and pitch them or throw them in your compost pile. Then begin watering with a 1/2 cup of epsom salt mixed with a gallon of water and pour it in at the base of the plant.  This should prevent any more blossom-end rot to future fruit.

ALL DRIED OUT:  At some point during the summer months, whether caused by lack of rain or a week of vacation, we’ve all experienced that moment when you look at your garden and see cracked earth.  If your plants aren’t completely dead, there are a few things you can do to possibly salvage all your hard work.  Start by watering in the AM at the plant base, when the sun is low and temperatures are lower.  This way the moisture won’t evaporate as quickly.  Don’t fertilize as often as fertilizer tends to dehydrate plant roots when is hot outside.  Add mulch to help add in moisture retention.  If container combos are drying our too quickly, move them to a spot where they can get a few hours of shade in late afternoon.

POWDERY MILDEW:

powdery mildew2Let’s start with the good news – this fungi is not fatal! Unsightly, yes and it will stress out and weaken the plant.  Commonly found on the leaves of squash, cucumber and roses and thrives when plants have a lack of air circulation (plants to close to one another), and when the weather is damp and humid.  What to do:  Remove the affected leaves and destroy them – do not add them to your compost pile!  Prune, if applicable.  This will help with circulation.  Finally, spray plant with a mixture of milk and water.

INSECTS:

aphids2 JapBeetleDamage2Not all insects are bad for your garden, but aphids and Japanese beetles are among the worst, at least in my world!  Aphids are very small and come in many different colors.  They usually hide on the underside of plant leaves and feed on the juices of flower stems, veggies and fruit. These little buggers reproduce at an amazing speed.  Once you have spotted them, get your hose and spray them – full throttle.  If that doesn’t do the trick, Mix 1 quart of water with 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Spray away! (If you prefer, you can purchase ready-to-spray Insecticidal Soap from the Corner Market.)

Japanese beetles eat through the leaves of roses, crape myrtle, raspberries and grapes, to name a few.  They will literally skeletonize the foliage.  The good news?  They’re slow. You can handpick them off of the leaves or use a spray to debug your plants.  Another option that works against beetles and aphids are the good insects!  Specifically ladybugs and green lacewings.  Don’t have any in your yard?  They are available to purchase!  Is there anything you can’t order from Amazon?  However, I can’t tell you how to train them to stay in your yard!

General Summer Blahs 

While “blah” may not be a technical term, we’ve all seen it: come July, our formerly Pinterest-worthy gardens just lack that special glow. When the issue isn’t attributable to one of the above problems or other common garden troubles, there are still strategies to bring back the “wow” factor. In addition to weeding, be sure to take the time to “deadhead,” since removing the spent blooms will encourage new blooms. While you’re at it, check on the spacing; plants that are overcrowded can smother each other, so you may want to cut back some that have become overgrown, or even remove a plant or two if the space is just too tight. If you haven’t been fertilizing, or if you used a time-release fertilizer back at planting time, give your garden a boost and bring on the fertilizer!

Hopefully these tips will get your garden back on track and if you have any other solutions for mid-summer garden woes, please share them with us in the comments! Especially if you know how to train a ladybug…

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