As beautiful, glorious spring blossoms fade and hot summer weather settles in, it’s time to turn your attention to summer garden chores. By now, your perennials have pushed their way out of the ground and are preparing to show themselves off with bright summer blooms. You’ve probably planted a few annuals and cleaned up the last bit of leaf litter. Your veggie garden is in and you’re awaiting a bountiful harvest. So, what to do in the garden now?
June garden chores
June chores are the busiest of the summer and revolve mostly around weeds, water, and pests.
Weeds and June go together. Be diligent in your hunt for weeds; don’t let them get ahead of you! You may need to make two or three passes over your property during June and July to control weeds. It’s always best to hand pull when weeds are small (before they bloom and reseed) and when the ground is soft after a rain. Spend a little time learning what emerging weed leaves look like, so that you don’t inadvertently remove a self-seeding perennial or a desired native plant. If you choose to use an herbicide in planted areas, be careful the chemical doesn’t contact perennials, annuals, and vegetables.
Most plants need about an inch of rain a week
Use a rain gauge to monitor rain throughout the summer. If your garden gets less than one inch of rain a week, you may need to irrigate. A drip irrigation system, or at least an early morning watering routine, is better than overhead sprinkling that leaves foliage wet and susceptible to disease. Whatever the rain gauge shows, don’t allow newly planted trees and shrubs to dry out during summer months. Established plants are better able to tolerate longer dry periods, but should be thoroughly watered every two to three weeks.
Watch for pests: Diseases and bad bugs
One positive thing about weeding is that you get to check out your plants up close for diseases and insects. Wet weather, poor air circulation, crowded plants, and poor drainage may contribute to a variety of problems.
Japanese beetles show up around June 1 and feast on roses and other plants for about six weeks. Sawfly larvae attack conifers in June and July. Lacebugs like pieris; hollies can host scale; stem borers may find their way into your rhododendrons. If you choose to use fungicides, tomatoes will benefit from a weekly spray to ward off blight. Spray roses every two weeks to control black spot.
Fescue lawns go dormant in the summer and should not be fertilized or overwatered, which only encourages the fungus brown patch. In drought conditions, water only every three weeks and mow no shorter than three inches high when the grass is dry.
Contact the Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer Helpline (828-255-5522) for help identifying insect or disease problems. And follow best practice advice regarding pest control methods. Remember, chemical and biological pesticides may not always be the answer.
Pruning, staking, and planting
Prune spring and summer blooming shrubs, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and viburnums, soon after they finish blooming and no later than July 4. Pruning too late in the summer cuts off next season’s flower buds. Hydrangeas have their own peculiarities and you’ll need to research your particular variety to learn its pruning schedule. Stake tall flowers before they flop. Deadhead perennials to keep them blooming longer. Pinch chrysanthemums now until mid-July to reduce legginess and encourage a mass of blooms. Repeat plantings of vegetable seeds and transplants ensure a continuous harvest.
Click here to download a helpful annual Pruning Calendar from Burke County Cooperative Extension.
For a summer veggie planting schedule, take a look at the Western North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs.
July garden chores
July chores mean a repeat of June’s weeding, watering, and pest control, as necessary. July is also a good time to divide iris and daylilies if they haven’t bloomed well. If you need to prune shrubs (except spring bloomers), July is the time.
August garden chores
Late August is the right time to rejuvenate your fescue lawn—aerating, reseeding, and fertilizing. And if you decide to try milky spore to control Japanese beetle grubs, late August is the time to apply it to your lawn.
Take stock and plan changes
The hot, lazy month of August is a perfect time to make a critical assessment of your garden and set plans in motion for needed changes, such as removing, adding, dividing, or relocating plants. Do you need to correct drainage problems or install hardscapes? Does your garden fit your current lifestyle and interests? Consider and plan in August, be ready to act during fall and winter, and then enjoy next spring.
The Buncombe County Extension Master GardenerSM website (www.buncombemastergardener.org) includes a variety of blogs about these chores, plants, and pests. The blogs often contain links to Cooperative Extension resources for additional, in-depth information. To find blogs on topics of interest to you, go to the website and enter keywords into the search text box in the upper right corner of the webpage.
Article written by Beth Leonard, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.