University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Mid-Summer News Article


Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor 
University of Vermont


Does your gardening enthusiasm wane a little by mid-summer? So may your garden. But remember, weeding, watering, dead heading, and staking of tall growing plants will help keep your flowerbeds vigorous and colorful.

Watering is especially important, though should be done with conservation in mind. I try to cut back on water use by recycling. I collect rainwater from the gutters and use a couple of gallons a day from the dehumidifier in my basement for watering my garden, for example.

Most flower borders need to be watered at least once a week unless it rains an inch or more during that period. Sandy soils or gardens in which tree roots rob moisture may need watering two or three times weekly.

When you water, soak deeply. Dig down six inches to make sure moisture has penetrated. Spread containers several places under your sprinkler to collect and measure the amount of water applied. Remember, watering thoroughly each time you water is better than frequent light waterings.

Trees, shrubs, or evergreens planted this spring may suffer if allowed to dry out. Applying five to ten gallons of water weekly to each plant is a good rule of thumb.

Two to four inches of mulch around each plant slows moisture loss and prevents weeds and grass from taking over. Bark, pine needles, wood shavings, straw, or peat moss all make excellent mulching material. Mulching is good for perennial flower plantings, too, as it conserves moisture and keeps down weeds.

Weeds among flowers are easily pulled when small. Pulling larger weeds may loosen the roots of garden plants. Instead, use a sharp knife or hoe to cut off weeds just below the soil surface. Shallow hoeing kills germinating weed seeds without injuring the roots of garden plants.

Dead heading--the removal of faded flowers--will help keep annuals blooming throughout the rest of the summer. Perennials, such as irises, peonies, and lilies benefit by returning strength to the plant rather than developing seeds. And, better flowers will result next year.

Should you remove seed heads from lilacs? The answer is no. Although some lilacs bloom better every year if flower heads are removed, generally it doesn't matter. Mock orange and rhododendron are other plants on which seed heads may be left.

Being a lazy gardener (or sometimes just too busy) I prefer not to stake flowers so look for shorter varieties. If you like taller varieties--it's hard to resist some of the tall delphiniums, for instance--they may need staking.

Ideally, you should do this when they are only a foot high (May-early June), but staking now is better than having beautiful stalks break off in high winds. Peonies are one perennial that is usually staked. You can install peony cages (wire frames) early in the season or use stakes and string to wrap them and other perennials up now.

Finally, spend a few minutes each day inspecting ornamentals for insect pests and disease, which are best controlled when spotted early. Check with your local garden store for organic or biological controls.

If you are considering insecticides, remember that these chemicals also may harm beneficial insects. However, should you choose to use them, read the label carefully and apply at the rate indicated on the container.

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