Hello gardeners, and welcome to summer! After months of planning and prepping, it’s time to finally enjoy the fruits of our gardening labor. I recall adding compost and turning tired winter soil just a couple of months ago and feeling overheated – well before North Carolina’s signature heat and humidity even arrived. Now that the temperatures are on the rise, I have stopped adding to my garden, and am instead focusing on its maintenance. (My one exception is pumpkins and a few stalks of corn that I can grow and keep for autumn decorating. For fall enjoyment, these types of crops should be planted now.) While it may be tempting to sit back and savor its beauty now that the season of planning and prepping is behind you, keep in mind that summer gardening is essential for the health and beauty of your landscape this time of year. Read on for some successful summer gardening tips.
Harvesting and watering should be the focus for the coming months, as well as weed control and pruning. Along with these chores come critter visits to the garden – insects, deer, and dare I say, snakes! I see several black snakes slinking around my garden as the temperatures start to rise. Note that black, green, and garter snakes are typically good; snakes play important roles in nature, so be sure to research which are safe to see on your property. The copperhead is very prevalent around here, so be diligent when you are gardening, as it is dangerous to humans. Also know that black snakes are a predator of the copperhead, which is another reason to let them hang around. Keep your garden area clean of debris (leaves, weeds, and the like) and snakes will be less likely to share these spaces with you; instead, they’ll be doing their jobs in the garden catching mice and frogs. Additionally, a snake on your porch or patio may indicate a nest of baby birds hidden in your fern or other potted plant, so plan accordingly.
Japanese beetle visits will be fizzling out any day now; they’re shifting to egg-laying this time of year. Furthermore, a new crop of grub worms is forming under our feet, which will beckon moles to come into our lawns and do their own form of soil aeration while they hunt and devour the grubs. If you’re not a fan of these natural aerators, you can purchase products at your local garden center to kill the grub worms and thus deter the moles. Be sure to read and follow package directions as these products can be harmful to pets and even humans. And if you’re still finding beetles in your roses and other plants, you can simply flick them into a bucket of soapy water and get ’em naturally. The same is true for aphids that might be attacking your roses; spray plants with your water hose to knock them off, or mix some cooking oil, dish detergent, and water to spray on your crops for a natural eradication method.
Mosquitos take advantage of the warm weather of summertime just like we do. So, when it rains or you water your garden, avoid letting water collect and stand. Mosquitos raise their young in moist, warm conditions, so a plant saucer, for example, can act as a prime mosquito nursery. To prevent pesky bug bites and mosquito-borne illnesses, limit standing water in your garden area as much as possible.
Deer too, are ready to enjoy the fruits of our garden work. I am lucky my garden is fenced, which limits my plants from being over-eaten by animals. While I am glad to have a fence to protect my plants, I enjoy naming the deer that come to visit and I feed them late in the afternoon. However, if you’re not looking to make
friends with these garden guests, there are deer deterrent products – again, read the label carefully to prevent unnecessary harm to pets or residents. Also, portable fencing is another option that seems to work well in areas surrounded by woods and deer. If all else fails, a last resort is to plant enough to share!
Moving forward … if you have garden mums from past seasons, pick off the flower buds for the last time this month. Next time they begin to bud will be nearly time for their appearance in autumnal gardens. The same is true for other plants (both annuals and perennials). If your plants are browning or the flowers have lost their luster, off with their heads! Deadhead them for a new flush of growth and flowers. Moreover, if rains are not plentiful, be certain you are watering and fertilizing. And feeding should be ended in August; perennials and any shrubs or trees need time to harden off before the first frost of fall.
Once all blooming has ended (likely August), you can lift and divide iris and daylilies that have clumped from several years of life in the garden. It will refresh the space and provide plants to start anew.
Make sure your lawn receives at least one inch of water each week, whether by rain or manual watering. Keep cool-season grasses cut to about three and one-half inches, and warm-season ones to one inch.
This summer, I hope you are enjoying the delicious harvest from your vegetable garden. Nothing is better than a juicy tomato sandwich, grilled zucchini and squash, a crunchy cucumber salad, or even a delightful zucchini bread accompanying your morning coffee. And if you don’t choose to grow your own crops this season, be sure to hit your local farmers market and buy fresh from local vendors. For your fall vegetable garden, go ahead and prepare seeds come late July. If you are not planning to maintain a fall veggie garden, consider over-planting with crimson clover for the winter and turn it over in spring for extra organic matter in your soil (this will aid future crop growth).
The long, hot North Carolina summers can be made more bearable when we enjoy the fruits of our labor (figuratively and literally). Go outside, cut yourself a batch of beautiful blooms to spruce up your countertops, fire up the grill and roast some homegrown veggies, and take pleasure in all the season has to offer. Happy digging, gardeners!
Pam Eagles lives in Rolesville where she gardens with two dogs and a cat. She is a founding member of the Community Gardeners of Rolesville Garden Club and serves as a Wake County Master Gardener.