By: Lisa Briggs | June 18th, 2020
Mid-summer is an especially nice time to start a garden journal. Our to-do lists have shortened and everything is just so beautiful. It’s helpful to make notes of particular diseases or pests that may haunt your yard year after year. Phenology is the study of seasonal phenomena, especially in relation to animal activity, plant development, and climate change. So take a couple of minutes to stroll through and observe what is going on in your garden. Next season, you can look at your notes and give yourself a head’s up on when sawfly larvae attack your mugo pine and the Japanese beetles invade your rose border. Or even better, transfer your notes from each year onto a master calendar.
Now let’s talk about container plantings. Does the watering of plants in containers seem like a no-brainer? When it’s hot, everything needs lots of water, right? Not always! When it’s painfully hot and humid for you, plants can go into a state of suspended animation and shut down their water usage system. This is especially true for plants in pots since their roots get hotter than those of plants in the ground. The moral of this story? Always check soil moisture before watering. If a container plant looks stressed and the soil seems damp, consider moving it into a cooler and shadier location.
This spring’s cool temperatures and more-than-regular rainfall are surely having an effect on anything that you’ve planted in containers this season, from annuals to vegetables. You might find that your plants aren’t filling in as quickly, especially with heat-loving things like coleus, tomatoes, and peppers. And the ample precipitation has meant that additional watering hasn’t really been necessary. But fertilizing those containers might be your next priority. Regular watering washes the nutrients out of the soil, especially in potted plants. Use a water-soluble fertilizer once a week or apply a dose of a slow-release product. If you use the slow-release fertilizers, be sure to work it into the soil a bit so that it doesn’t float right out of your pots.
And don’t forget that deadheading spent flowers is essential for the continued bloom of many annual and perennial plants. Roses appreciate the extra attention, too. So go ahead and pinch back any leggy or straggly growth. Your plants will be stronger and bushier in the long run and you will get more blossoms.
If we’re making any predictions, all signs point to a banner year for fungal diseases. Observation and inspection are the keys here. Look carefully at your plants as you water. Learn to recognize the difference between healthy-looking foliage and those leaves that show signs of stress. Turn a few over and look at the growing tips for hints of disease and infestations. When you learn what is normal, it’s easier to spot what is abnormal. If you’ve had a history of powdery mildew on your peonies, phlox, or ninebark, consider spraying preventatively with Revitalize, a biologic fungicide.
After all of this effort, don’t forget to enjoy what you’ve created. Sitting on the screened porch on a soft summer evening is a lovely experience. Have a glass of something. Be delighted and mesmerized by the miniature fireworks of the lightning bugs. Or are they fairies, like Tinker Bell? Clap your hands and see.