Summer Gardening Tips & Tricks
With the days getting longer and temps heating up, your garden should be growing and thriving by now. It’s important to take steps now to keep your garden lush and bountiful in the fall. Here are a few tips to get you started!
By now, your tomato and pepper plants are likely getting quite tall and your cucumber vines are spreading. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to tie plants up to stakes, cages, trellises, or other support. Branches that are heavy with fruit may bend or break under the weight. Foliage or fruit that comes into contact with the soil is much more susceptible to disease and rot. It is also easier to harvest when you can see the fruit!
Summer is the hottest and driest time of the year. Watering plants deeply and regularly will help to ensure a successful garden. Containers and baskets generally need to be watered daily when temps are above 75 degrees. Raised beds and in-ground gardens benefit from watering every 3 to 5 days, depending on weather conditions. Check whether watering is needed by poking your finger around 2 inches down into the soil to see if it is dry. For best results, water early in the early morning or late evening.
Weeds can take over your garden quickly if you don’t stay on top of them early on. Slow them down by mulching around plants and bare spots with grass clippings, pine needles, straw, chopped leaves, or other organic matter. Use a hoe or other hand tool to knock out weeds while they are small. Weeding is much easier when the ground is moist after rain or watering. Weeds compete with your garden plants for nutrients, moisture, and space, so it is important to keep them at bay.
In addition to weed control, mulch will keep your plants happy throughout the growing season. It helps with soil temperature and moisture retention and prevents erosion from wind and heavy rain. Keep a supply of organic mulch on hand and add it as needed.
Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional blooms. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves and branches from your vegetable plants and flowers. Remove extra foliage from tomato plants to encourage good airflow and visibility to ripening fruit. With indeterminate tomatoes, be sure to prune the “suckers” which sprout in the “armpit” between the main stem and the branches. These suckers will turn into additional stems if left unattended and soon your plant will be out of control. By maintaining good pruning habits, you will push more energy back into producing and ripening the fruit!
Your plants have been using up nutrients throughout the growing season and will benefit from replenishing the soil. Plants that are “starved” for nutrients are more susceptible to pests and disease. Use an organic granular or liquid fertilizer and your plants will reward you with increased yields.
Invasive insects love the hot summer weather and can wreak havoc on your garden in a hurry. Fortunately, there are several organic methods to control these pests:
Neem oil and Insecticidal soap are two inexpensive products that pack a punch and are safe for the environment.
Make a DIY essential oil mixture with citronella, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, or tea tree oil. Mix your essential oil with a little witch hazel and some avocado oil.
Diatomaceous Earth (or DE) is ground-up skeletal remains of diatoms, which are tiny sea creatures, and is a very effective natural garden pest control for squash bugs, aphids, ticks, ants, beetles, and other soft-bodied pests. Diatomaceous Earth comes in powdered dust form. You can simply sprinkle the DE dust on and around your plants. If you need a more concentrated application, you can mix 4 tablespoons of Diatomaceous Earth to a gallon of water and apply it with a spray bottle. One of the best things about Diatomaceous Earth is that it is completely safe for all plants