University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Harvesting produce and fruits regularly, and keeping up with watering and fertilizing containers, are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Harvest tomatoes, zucchini, beans, and other fruiting crops frequently to encourage continued production. Remove any fruits that have gone by unless you're in competition for the biggest zucchini! You don't want the plant to produce mature seeds because that will signal that it's time to slow down fruit production.

In the past, the recommendation was to remove spent blooms on petunias to encourage more blooms, and cut back leggy growth to keep plants tidy. Rather than snipping off the ends of the longest vines, they were cut back to within 3 or 4 inches of the soil line.  From there they would sprout to give a fuller, bushier plant.  Most modern petunias are “self-cleaning”, that is their spent blossoms just fade and fall off so you don’t need to remove them by hand.  And they keep on blooming, so you don’t need to cut them back.  If you have older cultivars (cultivated varieties), such as heirlooms or those you grew from seed, you may need to do this if they stop blooming.

Check container-grown plants frequently, and water as necessary to keep soil moist. Soil can dry out very quickly, especially in small containers and those made of clay.  Hanging baskets, especially those lined with sphagnum moss or coir (the rough tan material made of coconut husk fibers), also dry out daily when plants are mature.  If you bought a basket already planted, or didn’t incorporate water absorbing gels at planting, scratch some in the surface now.  You can find these at many complete garden stores.  They hold much water, releasing it to the plants over time.

During periods of frequent rainfall, nutrients are washed out of the soil of container plants.   Many of the newer annual flowers are raised, and bred, to need high fertility.  Give them a dose of liquid fertilizer to keep them producing flowers for the rest of the season. Add a dilute fish emulsion- or seaweed-based fertilizer to the water each time you water, or a synthetic liquid or slow release fertilizer, depending on your gardening philosophy.

Birds love blueberries as much as we do, so protect bushes with netting. Rather than draping the netting over the bush (birds will be able to reach the berries) use stakes to suspend the netting over the shrub. Secure the netting to the ground to prevent birds from sneaking in.

Stop pruning trees and shrubs. Any pruning done after mid-summer (early July) will stimulate new growth that might not have enough time to harden off before cold weather arrives. This can result in winter injury to the plant. Of course you should prune off any branches broken by wind or in storms.

Now's the time when strawberry beds can become a mass of baby plants.  Renovate the beds, controlling the runners, encouraging them to root where you want them. Keep the bed well mulched and watered.
Visit a local perennial nursery to see what’s in bloom and get some design ideas.  You can find a listing of specialty Vermont nurseries online (    

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; 

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