Toronto Star column – published July 13, 2013
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” ~Henry Ford
Life is busy enough, don’t you think? And this is early summer when you should be training your sites on the hammock or a comfy Muskoka chair on the porch, no?
My kids accuse me of lacking the ‘relax gene’. It seems that whenever I sit down I see something that ‘needs’ doing and get up again to get on with it. It is a compulsion that I learned or inherited from my late father, Len.
That said I am of the mind that if you invested in the ‘work’ of planting, seeding, weeding, mulching, and all of the other essential activity that leads to a successful gardening experience this spring, you deserve to sit and contemplate your work this time of year. It is, after all, hot and sticky out there.
With this in mind I am providing you with my early summer ‘Could’ Do list – jobs that you can do if you want to but don’t have to if you would rather not. You get the point.
To help you make an intelligent decision, I am furnishing you with answers to the key question of ‘why’ in each case. You may decide that it is not worth the effort. On the other hand you may want to take care of your heebie jeebies, get off your butt, and do something ‘useful’. There are benefits either way.
It is summer time in Canada: take time in July to contemplate the ‘wonder’ in wonderful either while working in the garden or from the vantage point of your front porch.
What you could do in the garden this time of year:
– Water your lawn once a week, but only for 2 hours. If at all. If we enter a heat wave, forget watering altogether until August. Why? To keep it looking green and to keep you busy cutting your grass. Otherwise, just ‘let ‘r go’ and nature will take care of it. Fertilize in late August.
– Deadhead recently spent flowering perennials: peonies, lilacs, roses, and others that have delivered good looking blossoms earlier in the season enjoy a haircut by removing the spent blossoms before they produce seed. Why? The energy used by a plant to produce seed [which naturally follows flowering] will be used to strengthen your perennial and improve its blooming potential next season. So the theory goes, anyway. Also, a deadheaded flowering plant looks neater than a non-deadheaded one.
– Fertilize roses, tomatoes and other heavy feeders. Why? Key words ‘heavy feeders’ – there are some plants in your garden that produce better blossoms and fruit when the soil is enriched on a monthly basis up to the end of July. I use all-natural Green Earth fertilizers from PremierTech Home and Garden. http://www.pthomeandgarden.com/products/brand/6-green-earth#1
– Tomatoes. Public enemy #1 is early blight. #2 is late blight. Apply Bordo mixture as a liquid [it is a wettable powder] every two weeks from now ’til the middle of September. Why? Blight is like the common cold… it is everywhere and there is little that you can do about it once you contract it. However you can prevent it [blight]: with Bordo. If you don’t do it you may be looking at a significantly shorter tomato harvest.
– Cut down all of the spring bulb foliage. Why? It is getting ugly now and serves no purpose at this point. If you don’t do it there is no harm to the plant. The dying foliage is just ugly.
– Mulch. July is a great month to spread 6 to 8 cm of finely ground up cedar or pine mulch. Why? To reduce weeding by up to 90% and watering by up to 70%. But then, if you enjoy weeding and watering then you can skip this one.
– Plant. Yes, you can still plant greenhouse grown perennials and some of the large format annuals in pots. Why? Consider adding some colour to your patio, deck, or front door. Note that the hot summer weather demands that your container plants need more frequent watering. I only use rain water from my rain barrels for this purpose and I get terrific results.
– Sow a late vegetable crop: carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and beets. Why? For September/October harvest. You want to eat, don’t you?
– Stake your tomatoes: use a spiral Mark’s Choice stake. Why? Staking doubles your crop. The additional air circulation, exposure to sun and lack of access to ground-dwelling vermin and disease is a great boon to your crop. Don’t do it and enjoy fewer tomatoes this season.
– Support tall growing perennials and hydrangea with a strong stake and natural jute twine. Why? A heavy rain fall or high wind will pull them down. You waited all year long for these blooms… this should be a no brainer. Don’t leave this job too late!
– Harvest raspberries and other fruit bearing plants Why? When you harvest as the fruit becomes ripe, you encourage more fruit production and avoid rot.
– Spray apples, peaches, pears, plums and other fruit bearing crops. Why? ‘Cause insects and disease will get to your fruit before you do if you don’t spray. I use Green Earth Insecticidal Soap combined with Garden Sulphur.
– Call a professional to control emerald ash borer. Why? The active ingredient in TreeAzin works only in July and August. If you don’t treat your ash tree this summer and every second summer for three applications you will lose the tree to the bug. Simple. Pay to save it now or pay to cut it down and replace it in a couple or three years. There is a list of professional applicators at www.yourleaf.org