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Seasonal Tips: Growing in the Summer

by Nel Newman

Summer's the time to really grow plants, so don't wait to water, feed, and pinch to encourage new growth. Make certain every planting gets the benefits of organic mulch: a moderating effect on soil moisture, spiffy good looks, plus weed and erosion control.

Plant beds and planters with heat-loving annuals like moss roses, purslane, sunflowers, and narrowleaf zinnia. Water containers daily in sunny spots and soak beds of annuals weekly even if it rains. In shady gardens, try Bluebells (Browallia) and Wishbone plant (Tithonia).

Give a boost to any perennials that look less than terrific by midsummer. Use cottonseed meal, composted manure, or fish emulsion for more leaf growth; these nitrogen sources won't burn even in midsummer. To promote flowering in the fall or next spring, use a complete fertilizer. Water well before and after fertilizing.

For more flowers and less borers, divide bearded iris rhizome and separate to individual fans. Replant the largest, along with a good chunk of rhizome, just on top of the soil in sunny beds.

If groundcovers still suffer from winterkill, now's the time for heavy pruning. Cut down to the green leaves hidden at ground level and remove all dead stems. Use a garden rake to break the surface around the plants, then water and fertilize weekly using a soluble formula such as 20-20-20.

To maximize the growth of young trees, apply tree food at midsummer. Rake old mulch back, sprinkle fertilizer in a circle and work it in with some of the old mulch, then add fresh pine straw, leaf mold, or bark mulch. Don't pile mulch up around the tree stem; it should be clear.

Make a rooting box for cuttings of favorite shrubs. Combine equal parts peat moss, perlite, and sand in a window box, flowerpot, or old crate lined with window screen. Take 4-6 inch long cuttings of roses, and other favorites, strip the leaves off half the stem before dipping it in rooting hormone. Find a shady spot for the box and its cuttings, and add humidity with a plastic tent. Keep moist but not wet. Tug gently after a month; if the cutting resists, it's rooted.



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