Keeping your Plants Healthy
There is always an unbelievable exuberance for gardening in the early spring. Most people just can’t wait to get out and breathe new life to the yard. By the time 4th of July rolls around, it is a much different story. Many people have had enough of the heat, and are willing to just let the garden coast through until fall when the winter annuals come into season. With a minimal amount of effort, you can keep the Garden looking good without having to hire out help.
If you do nothing else to your plants, fertilize! This will give you the most bang for the energy you expended. Scatter some time release fertilizer in your containers and around your plants in the garden once a month. In the garden, I fling it like I am feeding the chickens. Just make sure that the foliage on your plants is dry, so it doesn’t stick to the stems and leaves. Fertilizer is an acid; when mixed with water, it burns (like lemon juice on a cut) and it can kill a plant, if it sits on the stems. If it does land on plants, simply take a leaf rake and gently brush the plant with the rake turned upside down. You can also use the leaf blower to gently remove any stray granules, or a hose to wash it off, whatever you are most comfortable with.
Additionally, I also use a liquid feed on my containers once a week to go above and beyond the time release food. The pots get watered so often, that I like to give them an extra kick with a fertilizer high in Phosphorous (middle number on the formulation) for those that are heavy bloomers, to keep them looking their best. By keeping the plants well fed, they will be more vigorous, less susceptible to disease and insects (just like people, that are well nourished) and therefore thrive and bloom better.
Nothing looks worse than an unkempt garden. A little cutting back of spent flowers, here and there as needed, can be an easy chore, if you do it a little at a time. Go out in the morning or in the evening, when temperatures are a little cooler. Grab your favorite light pruning shears or scissors (I love my Joyce Chen Scissors for this), take a bucket or a bag and set a goal of one or two loads to the trash can or compost pile. Pull a few weeds at the same time and trim back any overgrown plants (like Coleus, Salvias, Petunias, Basil, etc.).
As you make your way around the garden, scout for any insect problems. However, before you pull out the arsenal, identify the insects in your garden. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, in my newsletter, “Identify, before you destroy,” there are many, great beneficial insects out there. A short list of these includes the ladybugs, green lacewings, assassin bugs and praying mantises. They will, if allowed, clean up some of the most common, problem insects in our gardens such as aphids, whitefly, lacebugs and spider mites, more effectively than any amount of spraying. They can be purchased locally or online, if you don’t have them in the garden already. I let them clean up a whitefly problem in my garden earlier this spring and they did a fantastic job!
It is a given that with the heat and scattered rainfall we usually don’t receive, that you will need to pay careful attention to watering your containers as well as the garden. It is better to water more, less often. This will encourage a deeper, more extensive root system on all your plants. If you water a little, all the time, the roots never search beyond the surface for water because they have no need to do so. When these plants do miss a watering, they are far more likely to suffer severe damage because their root system is so limited. Watering deeply and less frequently produces a much sturdier and healthy plant.
Work with the shade throughout the day; start there and follow it around the garden. Keep a bottle of water nearby and take frequent breaks. Work for a while in the morning and then again, maybe later in the evening. If you are hand watering your plants while working in the garden, run the cool water over your wrists or better yet, your bare feet. This will cool you down quickly, as many blood vessels course through these parts of your body. Try it next time you get over heated, you will be amazed!
A little work goes a long way-
Just a few minutes a couple of times a week can keep the garden looking far better than if you just leave it to its own devices. Something as simple as taking a bag for the weeds when you go to collect the newspaper each morning can make a dent in the workload over the course of a week, just make sure to take a different path every day.
Tom Ericson and partner Allen Sabin moved to Wilmington to open The Transplanted Garden in December of 1999. This was their 14th year in business. To find out more about The Transplanted Garden, go to www.transplantedgarden.com , or stop in to the shop located at 502 S 16th St. They can be reached at 910-763-7448.