It’s hot, so get out early in the day for these mid-summer garden tips and tasks:
Early in the month
Nothing’s more frustrating that finding that birds have poked holes in your prized tomatoes. To discourage pecking, pick tomatoes before they are fully red and let them ripen indoors.
Petunias may start to look ragged. Cut them back and fertilize lightly, and they should soon rebound with fresh blooms.
Continue to watch for Japanese beetles, which are attracted to many of your favorite ornamentals. Pick off any you find on your prized plants, and plunk them into a bowl of soapy water.
Depending on your hardiness zone, you may be able to plant seeds of fast-growing bush beans to provide a late harvest of beans this fall. Check the “Days to maturity” note on the seed packet.
Reduce the mosquito population by regularly emptying everything that collects water. Change the water in birdbaths every day or so. Use natural mosquito control products in ponds and rain barrels.
There’s a saying: One year of seeds; seven years of weeds. If you can’t dig out the weeds frequently enough, at least cut the tops to keep them from flowering and setting seed.
Continue to harvest and use basil frequently to keep the plant from setting seed too early.
Summer vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, summer squash, peppers — will continue producing if you harvest regularly. Okra, especially, should be picked every day or so, before the small tender pods grow large and tough.
If the weather is hot and dry, watch for spider mites on roses. They thrive in these conditions and can quickly defoliate a rosebush. A strong spray of water on the undersides of the leaves every two or three days for a week should help keep them under control.
Later this month
Some summer herbs can be frozen to use later. Try freezing fresh sprigs of parsley, oregano, sage, tarragon and dill. Rinse the herbs and pat them dry, then place them in separate freezer bags or containers with tight-fitting lids. Use them within four months.
Provide ample water if it doesn’t rain. It’s still hot, and you may need to water frequently. In fact, you may need to douse container gardens every day.
Keep vegetable beds clean of dead or dying foliage and rotting vegetables. A tidy garden bed means fewer places for destructive insects to overwinter.
Avoid planting new trees and shrubs in the hottest part of summer. Be sure that trees, shrubs and perennials planted this spring are receiving enough water during long hot spells.
Begin planting a cool season kitchen garden — spinach, greens, kale, lettuces and other favorites. Keep beds or containers watered as seeds sprout, and watch for late-summer insect pests.