Real Estate

Garden Tips: Summer Touch-ups

What to do in your garden now to help it thrive all season

Cleaning up our garden is not just for cosmetics, it's also good pest control and good husbandry. The detritus that forms in the garden during the fast growth of spring also harbors insects and snails and diseases that will cause problems in the summer. Now is the time to clean all this up and to get the garden not only healthy but looking good as well.

This is also a good time to put in some crop rotation. Either out with the old and in with the new, or adding another layer of the same plant — for example, corn — so that the crop comes to harvest over a longer period of time. This also is done with flowers. By adding new, young pansies and violas where the older ones have gotten leggy or their roots have rotted, for example, the flower show is refreshed.

Weeding is a constant exercise in good observation and persistence. If weed roots are getting the moisture and nutrients that your flowers or vegetables deserve, then your table will be less abundant with food and color. This season's tips focus on what to do and how to make that work easier:

1. Take your first cup of coffee or tea for a stroll in the morning. I can't tell you how many times I've seen really good gardeners in their gardens in slippers and robes with a cup of coffee just looking at their flower beds. You know they're going to be back soon, fully dressed and ready to pull weeds.

2. There's something about a trip to the nursery that's inspirational and uplifting to the garden. It doesn't necessarily cost a lot of money. One or two six-packs of flowers, a bag of soil or compost and a whole new project is started.

3. Not all nurseries are equal. Some specialize in seasonal plants while others have a much larger selection. I like to visit six or seven nurseries every year just to see what's coming, to see what's old and to see what's new. It makes for good road trips.

4. An important cleanup project in any garden is to prune away foliage from the ground. It doesn't have to be a lot but it cuts off some of the access to the plant for insects and snails and helps the plants to dry out from too much moisture. Be sure to remove any dying or diseased leaves and either put them on the compost or remove them from the property.

5. We can avoid almost all use of pesticides or pest control simply by observing our plants. Of course once you've observed them, if you've seen anything that looks like it's eating the leaves, pick them off. One good example is tomato hornworms. A big moth that looks like a stealth bomber and is about 3 inches long, it flies into the vegetable garden, usually at night. It lays many very small eggs. The eggs are very difficult to see. And the newly hatched caterpillars are very difficult to see because they're exactly the same color as the tomato leaves. But if you look for chewed leaf edges, eventually you will see the caterpillar. If you remove it, you've just saved many square inches of leaf damage.

6. Harvesting stimulates new growth. By cutting roses for your table, the rose bush will have a second and third flush of flowers. I pick strawberries as soon as they're ripe. Within a week, new flowers and soon, new fruit, are forming.

7. Herbs are constantly giving new foliage and thus, there are plenty of herbs for the kitchen. There's nothing better than fresh herbs to liven up our food. Don't cut more than 30% of any one plant or it may go into shock.

8. When the garden is all cleaned up it's a good idea to mulch. Mulch goes on the surface around the plant to keep the moisture in and the insects out. A good mulch can be anything organic. Plant trimmings, wood chips (not pine or eucalyptus) or straw. Remember: compost goes in the soil and mulch goes on the surface. In this case I'm talking about mulch. It's not composted.

9. Fertilizer is the food for plants. I like fish fertilizer. It comes in a gallon jug and it's very smelly. All the cats in the neighborhood will love you. Follow the instructions on the bottle. Once it is watered in, the smell is significantly reduced.

10. Check your irrigation system and make sure that it's working properly. If you water by hand, good for you. It's the best way to give your plants exactly what they need, no more no less. It's also very good therapy and free.

Good gardening.

Jack Mckinnon is a garden coach and can be reached at 650-455-0687.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Round Table Pizza bites the dust in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 19 comments | 6,292 views

Local Transit to the Rescue?
By Sherry Listgarten | 32 comments | 3,467 views

Eating Green on the Green – August 25
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,412 views

"The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 941 views

 

Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info