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  • July garden tips & tasks

    Make sure the trees and shrubs you planted in spring get plenty of water. The Nashville Tree Foundation advises that trees planted in the last three years should receive 10 gallons per week per inch of tree caliper. Water your trees slowly with a bucket, soaker hose, slow drip hose or watering bag.

    As tomato plants continue to grow and produce, keep the soil around the plants consistently moist. Inconsistent watering is the reason tomatoes develop cracks.

    Summer annuals and perennials such as daisies, glads, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos and others make beautiful summer bouquets. Cut them early in the day when they’re at their freshest and put them in water in a vase right away. Change the water daily to keep them fresh longer.

    Pick summer squash and zucchini while they are still small and tender for best flavor.

    Watch for tobacco hornworms on tomato plants and Japanese beetles on just about everything else. Pluck the worms off the tomato plants and dispose of them. (If you see one with its back covered with white eggs, leave it; it is being parasitized by a tiny wasp.) Knock Japanese beetles off plants into a bucket of soapy water.

    Cut back the stems of mums once more, before they begin to form flowers. This allows them to delay flowering until fall.

    Lawn growth (and lawn mowing) may slow down as the heat increases. Continue to mow as needed, but don’t cut the grass too short. Provide about an inch of water if it doesn’t rain.

    Don’t forget about those hanging baskets and container gardens in the heat. If it doesn’t rain, you may need to water them daily during the hottest part of summer.

    Overgrown beds of bearded irises should be divided every three to five years. July is a good time for this task.

    You can plant a second crop of summer vegetables that grow quickly. Cucumber, bush beans and zucchini can usually produce a crop by fall if seeds are planted early in July.

    Coleus’ beauty is in the foliage, so when it begins to bloom, pinch off the flower spikes to encourage the plant to grow fuller and bushier.

    Take a daily walk around the garden to enjoy the scenery, but also to spot problems with weeds or bugs before they get out of hand.

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Care for peonies after they bloom

Now that the peonies have finished blooming, what’s the best thing to do with them – leave them or cut them back? Ours often get an ugly coating of powdery mildew on the leaves in the summer. Is there a way to prevent this?

After they bloom, peonies spend the rest of the summer gathering strength to bloom next year before they die back to the roots in winter. A good first task for the gardener is to cut off the faded flowers. Garden expert P. Allen Smith suggests removing the seed pods and lightly fertilizing in late spring or early summer. But be sure to leave the foliage. After the blooms are gone, the rich green leaves of peony shrubs remain an attractive feature in the garden – except when it develops a case of powdery mildew. Continue reading

June garden tips & tasks

June is the garden’s high season, “the time of perfect young summer,” said gardener designer Gertrude Jekyll. Here are some garden tasks to enjoy during this “perfect” time.

Early in June

Tomatoes do best with consistent moisture as they begin to ripen.

Tomatoes do best with consistent moisture as they begin to ripen.

Summer tomatoes will begin ripening soon. Make sure they receive consistent moisture. Use mulch around the plants to keep them from drying out quickly. Replenish mulch around in all garden beds to help keep plants’ roots moist as the weather heats up. Continue reading

The heat’s on: August garden tips & tasks

Gardeners in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home) know that August can be brutal, and some days it’s best to stay inside. Here’s a tip: Get out early – before 7 a.m. if you can – and get those necessary tasks done. Then enjoy the rest of the day indoors, and remember that cooler days will be here soon.

Early in the month

RudbeckiaKeep deadheading daisies, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other summer-flowering perennials.

Many things stop blooming when it’s 90 degrees and above. As things cool down slightly, flowers in the beds and vegetables in the kitchen garden should be blooming again. Provide ample water if it doesn’t rain.

Continue to watch for Japanese beetles. Pick off any you find on your roses or other prized plants, and plunk them into a bowl of soapy water.

Save your prized tomatoes from the birds. Pick them before they are fully red and let them ripen indoors.

If petunias are looking scrappy, cut them back and provide a light dose of fertilizer. They should soon re-bloom.

Continue to harvest and use basil frequently to keep the plant from setting seed too early.

Mid-August

vegetable gardenBegin cleaning up vegetable beds. Remove dead or dying foliage and any rotting vegetables. A tidy garden bed means fewer places for destructive insects to overwinter.

Watch for spider mites on roses, which thrive in hot, dry weather 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.

If you saved your potted amaryllis bulb from last winter and it has spent the summer outdoors, move it to a cool, dark place and let it dry out. Amaryllis needs a dormant period before it blooms again next winter.

There’s no need to water your lawn every day. Experts advise deep watering every few days rather than a shallow sprinkling every day.

Try to keep ahead of the weeds. But if you can’t, at least snip or pinch off the tops to keep them from flowering and setting seed.

Later in the month

Parsley curledLate summer is a good time to thin iris beds. Cut back the foliage, dig up the rhizomes and brush off as much dirt as you can. Discard any roots that are rotting or soft, then replant the rhizomes.

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.

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.

Begin gathering seeds of annuals or vegetables to plant next year. Dry seeds thoroughly and store them in a place that’s cool and dry. Be sure to label them before you put them away.

Plant a cool season kitchen garden late this month — spinach, greens, kale, lettuces and other favorites. Keep beds or containers watered as seeds sprout, and watch for late-summer insect pests.