These gardening tips will have your garden looking great for the summer months.
Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
Maritime Canada & New England
So much happens in June and July — from dodging late frosts to harvesting the first ripe tomatoes under the shade of a wide-brimmed sun hat. Blooming lupine and irises herald the time to transplant warm-weather crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant — and melons and winter squash for those who get a jump on the season. Salads start to include more greens. The asparagus patch provides daily feasts and can be picked until mid-July if it’s well established. Planting tasks shift to mulching duty as the soil warms and there is more need to conserve moisture and discourage weeds. Roses bloom and young robins fledge in early July, just as the first summer squash and broccoli mature. Second or third seedings of lettuce, cilantro and peas can go in every few weeks. Sour cherries and currants ripen, and then the long- awaited first tomatoes — a fantasy that started back in December while reading seed catalogs.
— Roberta Bailey, FEDCO Seeds, Waterville, Maine
As peanuts reach 12 inches tall, make high hills of soil around each plant and mulch before they “peg” (send shoots downward). Transplant leeks and sow weekly successions of beans, corn, cucumbers and summer squash. Try sowing lettuce under shade cloth for better germination — but stick with heat- resistant varieties such as ‘Anuenue,’ ‘Sierra’ and ‘Slo-bolt.’ Pick an overcast day to transplant them to a spot with afternoon shade. Later in June, plant and mulch potatoes, and start sowing brassicas for fall harvest. Pull onions on a dry day after half the tops have fallen over, but wait to harvest garlic until the sixth leaf down is brown on half of your plants. Add carrots and beets to weekly succession plantings in July, and stop planting corn and beans at the end of the month. Cut back the celery to encourage a second harvest, and in late July, sow radishes, collards, chard and other greens. Enjoy the harvest!
— Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, Va.
With the onset of higher temperatures in June and July, some spring annuals will start to look ragged and leggy. Cut back the branches of petunias by half, impatiens by a third, and trim low-growing marigolds down to 6 inches. It seems drastic, but the plants will grow new branches and perform even better than before. Also, now is the time for a second application of slow-release fertilizer since most brands only last about two months. If your plants need a boost between applications, use a liquid fertilizer, which easily is absorbed through the plants’ leaves and roots. For my money, one of the best is Algoflash, which is 100-percent mineral-based and environmentally safe. As spring garden crops decline, use their space for heat-tolerant replacements such as crowder and purple hull peas, asparagus beans and sweet potatoes. In early July, start more tomatoes and plant your pumpkins for a Halloween harvest.
— Lori Hardee and Karen Park Jennings, Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C.
By now the need for some type of irrigation system is probably obvious. Low-volume drip or micro-sprinkler systems usually work best in the garden. If you’re tired of dragging a hose around, rent a trencher and put in the necessary water lines. There still is time to plant warm-weather crops such as okra, southern peas and Malabar spinach. You even might consider starting transplants for a fall tomato crop, but stick with early varieties that will ripen despite short, cold days. A few leaves on the tomato plants turning yellow may indicate a need for more nitrogen fertilizer, but it also may signal the presence of spider mites or the rapid onset of early blight fungus. Your local county Extension office has bulletins on identifying and controlling garden pests and may offer diagnostic services. You also can check the Web sites of your state agricultural colleges for more information on garden pests and diseases.
— Bill Adams, Burton, Texas
It’s time to plant the beans when you can go outdoors after dinner without a sweater. Even though many people seed them earlier, it really is better to wait until the nights are warm. You will be rewarded with quick emergence, healthy plants and bushels of produce. The same is true for sweet corn, squash, melons and basil. You can conserve water and ease heat stress on plants with thick organic mulch. A side benefit is fewer weeds because some need light to germinate.on’t have space to garden? Or you want to have something easy to reach by your kitchen door? Try container gardening. Start with a large pot to allow plenty of room and fill with a light soil mix.on’t use regular garden soil because it compacts and doesn’t leave space for the roots to breathe. Add your plants, water daily if needed and fertilize every week or so.
— Connie Dam-Byl, William Dam Seeds Ltd., Dundas, Ontario
North Central and Rockies
Exposed topsoil is subject to damage by severe wind and intense sun — especially at our altitude and latitude. As the sun arcs higher, remember the following: Cover your head and cover your soil. Every scrap of plant matter pulled or culled from our garden is used to protect open soil between rows or plants. In much of our area, chilly early summer nights set heat-loving crops off to a slow start. New products such as vented plastic or fabric row covers shield these tender plants from frost without needing to be removed during the day. They also speed ripening significantly by helping to retain more heat at night. If you haven’t tried these yet, cover a few plants this year and see how they compare. You might harvest your earliest tomatoes ever. Oh, and remember to plant a new section of salad greens every 10 days for the best baby green salads all summer long.
— Bill McDorman, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, Hailey, Idaho
As summer kicks into gear, turn garden maintenance into a set of pleasant routines and take time to enjoy your garden. Ease watering chores with drip irrigation and a timer. Simplify weeding by mulching with grass clippings, compost or straw. In June, garlic bulbs begin to swell and are a gardener’s delicacy when gently grilled with a touch of olive oil. Thinnings of greens, lettuce, mustard and onions make a first-rate salad. By now, the soil should be warm enough to sow heat-loving crops such as corn, beans, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers — they will appreciate the warmth and outgrow earlier plantings. And finally, begin planning — and planting — for late fall, winter and early spring harvests including cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, greens, peas and root crops. Look for varieties specifically suited to winter production and choose peas that are resistant to enation virus and powdery mildew for best results.
— Rose Marie Nichols McGee, Nichols Garden Nursery, Albany, Ore.; and Josh Kirschenbaum, Territorial Seed Co., Cottage Grove, Ore.
In our high desert climate, the peas planted back in February are just finishing, leaving trellises ready to replant with morning glories and other delightful climbers. Consider trellising June plantings of beans and cucumbers, too. This not only adds dimension to the garden, but allows more area for heavier-fruited vining crops such as winter squash. As planting winds down, pay heed to the needs of your growing bounty by foliar-feeding tomatoes and peppers as they begin to flower and form fruit. Succession plantings of mixed greens and annual culinary herbs allow aromatic and nutritious salads throughout much of the season. Use thin floating row covers to protect cool-season varieties from the hot sun, or locate them in the shade of taller plants. A colorful plate of greens, which can be purple, green or red these days, is healthy and gracious to the eyes and also to the palate.
— Erica Renaud, Seeds of Change, Santa Fe, N.M.