Westward Independent

Blossoms, Begonias, and Backyard Bliss: Summer Gardening Tips

by Westward Independent
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Dear Gardening Friends, After an unusually cool damp spring the good news is that our aquifers are filled, blossoms are lasting a long time and tomatoes are forming nicely. The potatoes I planted are so tall that I couldn’t hill them any longer and we had to build a box around them to contain the soil!

By staying on top of weeding in spring, there are fewer weeds hiding under the spreading branches of flowers and shrubs. This leaves me with plenty of time to deadhead and hand water. Watering needs increase as roots fill the pots and warm weather arrives. There is intense competition between the roots for water and nutrition. If you are growing flowering annuals in a pot or basket I recommend the largest pot you have and add fertilizer to keep the blossoms coming until Thanksgiving weekend.

There is nothing so attractive to me as pots and baskets surrounding a home’s door. There is still time to make up some lovely flower arrangements to say “Welcome” to family and friends. I always like to make a container look full so I tend to over-plant but the results are usually stunning. Add some tall plants and some that will tumble over the edge of the pot. Make your planting monochromatic or contrasting. Nature will make it all beautiful when put together! By removing spent blossoms, plants are encouraged to renew their flowers and keep blossoming. Don’t allow any of your plants to dry out. If they do, fill a bucket or wheelbarrow with water and submerge the entire plant underwater overnight. This will allow the plant to renew itself.

If you would like to make your own fertilizer, try this recipe: 4 parts alfalfa meal, 1 part dolomite lime, 1 part rock phosphate OR ½ part bone meal and 1 part kelp meal. Mix very well. This fertilizer is organic and good to use as a top dressing. Mulching with compost or well-rotted manure is a great way to slow down weed growth and evaporation of water. A bonus is that the mulch will break down and supply nutrients to your plants!

I like to thin out my rows of vegetables on a regular basis. There is too much competition for nutrition and sun if they are grown too close together and the closeness provides the perfect environment for molds and slugs to hide. I carefully seeded my carrots but I still have had to thin them several times. Most of your thinnings can be eaten and are delicious and full of flavour. Pick your vegetables daily as smaller vegetables taste wonderful! If you have room to plant some vegetables for a winter garden, pick up your seeds now as  unsold seeds are sent back to their originating retailers in summer. Start your winter vegetables at the end of July. This will give them enough heat to get going and they will come into their prime in fall. Lettuce can be started later as it sprouts and grows quite quickly. Romaine lettuce needs summer heat but there are many delicious varieties of leaf lettuce that can be started in August. As well, direct sow arugula, asian greens, endive, radicchio, snow peas, and spinach in late August.

If you want to grow  perennials from seed, July is the perfect time to start them. Sow seeds in sterilized seed starter mix, keep in a warm sunny spot and mist regularly until they are up. Thin out to allow room for robust root growth and by next summer you will be able to plant out these indispensable garden plants. Favourite geranium cuttings can be taken in mid August as they will root beautifully. I put a number of cuttings into a pot, removing all leaves but one or two at the top and put into slightly moistened soil in a bright location. Begonias are one of the easiest plants to grow. I save my corms from year to year, using a loose humus rich soil and plant with the crown just below soil level. My favourite begonia is Non Stop Begonia and true to it’s name, once it starts flowering, it doesn’t stop until frost visits them in fall. Did you  know that Non Stop Begonias have male and female blossoms? The female has multiple petals like a full rose  and the male is a simple flower of single petals surrounding the stamens. Pick off the male florets so the plant will have more showy female blossoms. Begonias are an extremely lovely plant with wing shaped handsome leaves. I also love the beautiful foliage of Begonia Dragon Wings. Try some! I think you will be very pleased. I grow a lot of marigolds as I love their vibrant colours and ease of growth. I remove spent flowers and throw them into the vegetable garden where many of them sprout and grow until dug into the garden in fall. They are good for the soil.

Remember to tie up your tomatoes every week and keep your broccoli and kale picked often to keep it from bolting into flowers. If you are growing spinach and peas, it is time to pull them out and plant something else, such as tomatoes, carrots or beets  in their place that will keep producing in the heat of summer. Put on your To Do list, “enjoy your garden”. Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to take the time to just sit in our gardens and drink in the beauty with our eyes. Invite friends and family over for dinner in the garden, or just a cuppa and a visit. What about the new neighbour in the area? Why not extend a warm welcome by asking them over? You may meet a new best friend! 

Have a wonderful summer, Carol Money

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