Summer: 20 Gardening Tips for Successful Planting & Harvesting During Summer
Once the summer season is in full swing, it’s time to multitask. This chapter will help you keep your plants healthy with pest control tactics, compost tea, and rain barrels so you can harvest the fruits of your spring efforts at peak ripeness for a successful summer season.
Feed, water, and protect plants from insects during this period of vigorous growth.
24. Start a Compost Pile
For the ideal organic fertilizer and soil conditioner
Compost ingredients include grass clippings, dried leaves, shredded newspaper, and kitchen scraps – produce scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Don’t compost meat or seafood scraps because they will attract pests. For proper decomposition to take place, the pile needs to be in full sun, kept moist, and aerated – turned with a pitchfork- occasionally. Placing your pile on the bare ground allows earthworms and other beneficial organisms to help the process and enrich the compost even more.
25. Patrol for Insects
Catching them early is key to control
The gardener must also be the security guard for his crops, keeping a constant lookout for signs of damaging insects. A daily walk through the garden looking at plant stalks and the undersides of leaves is a starting point, but there are a couple of early warning alarms available as well. Pheromone traps lure the moths that produce armyworms, cabbage loopers, and corn earworms. And sticky traps attract aphids, flies, leafhoppers, and beetles.
26. Install Drip Irrigation
Provide consistent water and reduce labor
Drip irrigation systems supply water very slowly to plants, increasing watering efficiency, eliminating inconsistent soil moisture, and reducing the amount of waste. Soil nutrient loss through leaching is minimized, and the soil maintains a better balance of air and water, both critical factors in growing healthy plants. Soil erosion and weed growth are reduced and because foliage stays dry, soil borne diseases are kept at bay.
27. Harvest and Dry Herbs
Herbs harvested now will retain their peak flavor
When flower buds appear on your herbs, the concentrations of essential oils are at their peak, and it’s time to harvest. The strong afternoon sun bakes herbs, reducing the plants essential oils, so harvest early in the day once the dew has dried. Strip the leaves from the lower stems, use cotton string to tie them into bundles, and hang them in a dark area with good circulation.
28. Set Up a Rain Barrel
Give your plants a healthy drink and conserve a precious resource
Think about the rain that falls on your roof. Two inches of rain on an average 2,500 square foot roof equates to 3,000 gallons of water. Free of minerals, salts, and chemicals found in groundwater, rainwater is a healthier drink for your plants. Barrels attached to gutter downspouts and set up on a platform to allow gravity feed are a simple way to collect this water.
29. Mix Up a Batch of Compost Tea
Use it on Tomatoes and squash for disease control
Organic gardeners use compost to enrich their soil and provide nutrients for plant growth. Making tea from compost increases its usefulness even further, and when used in a foliar spray, it suppresses many plant diseases. Use a five-gallon bucket of water to steep a shovel full of compost for three days, making sure the mixture is aerated to prevent the growth of oxygen-depleting organisms. Compost tea is full of living microorganisms, so use it immediately.
Settle into a routine of planting, weeding, pruning, weeding, harvesting, and more weeding.
30. Harvest Potatoes
They are at their peak when the foliage dies back
After potato vines begin to bloom, usually 10 – 12 weeks after planting, new potatoes are not far behind. Carefully hand dig to locate these tender morsels, replacing any soil you moved. As the vines mature and begin to turn brown, lift the entire plant with a pitchfork – carefully so as not to damage any of the potatoes, knock off any excess soil, and spread the potatoes in a shady area to dry.
Zones 1 – 5, September.
31. Mulch Around Plants
For moisture conservation and weed suppression
Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, a thick layer of mulch suppresses weeds and disease, keeps the soil moist, temperatures moderated, and improves the soil when it breaks down. There are many mulches you can use; some of the best are free. Use grass clippings, leaves, and compost to provide rich nutrients for your plants and to keep invasive foreign weeds out of your garden. Layer newspaper underneath the mulch around your fruits and vegetables to completely block any hint of sun, making weed suppression much more effective.
32. Prune Berries
Remove old canes to make room for new growth
Like so many plants that bloom in spring, berries flower and produce fruit on the prior year’s growth. Each blackberry cane lives for two years; growing leaves the first year and fruit the second year; canes that produced fruit in the current season will not do so again, so they must be removed. Pruning helps prevent disease by providing good air circulation and reducing plant stress.
33. Start Seeds for a Fall Garden
What to plant in July? Try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collards
Start your seeds about twelve weeks before the average first frost date for your area. Scrub planting trays with very hot water and a mild dish detergent , pre-moisten a high-quality seed-starting mix, and place the seed trays in a cool, shady location. Seeds for fall crops are sprouted in hot, sunny weather, so it is critical that we supply consistent soil moisture and shade. If you garden in a very hot climate, consider starting plants indoors.
Zones 7 – 9, August.
34. Control Weeds Organically
Try these time-tested methods
The goal of organic weed control is to reduce weed populations to an acceptable level, not to eradicate them completely – that would be impossible. Weeds are present for a reason; they are nature’s method of balancing nutrients in the soil. You can suppress weeds with mulch, physically remove them before they go to seed, or spray them with a mixture of vinegar and a few drops of dish detergent.
35. Control Insects With These Simple Tips
Ways to target the bad insects and leave the beneficial insects unharmed
In your kitchen, you have an arsenal of weapons in the fight against damaging insects. Add a tablespoon of canola oil and a couple of drops of dish soap to a quart of water for a spray that will devastate mites, aphids, and mealy bugs. Two tablespoons of baking soda mixed in a quart of water helps control fungal diseases. And a mix of equal parts water and milk help control powdery mildew.
36. Take Tomato Cuttings
An easy way to grow a late season crop
As July rolls around, many of the tomatoes planted in spring have seen their better days and are barely producing fruit. To extend your harvest, take six-inch cuttings from these plants and make new ones that will produce fruit well into the fall. Tomatoes started from seed require 6 – 8 weeks to reach transplanting size, whereas, tomatoes started from cuttings are ready to transplant in as little as two weeks.
Zones 1 – 5, June.
The fast pace continues with harvesting, propagating, pruning, and sowing seed.
37. Prune Summer Flowering Shrubs
Pruning encourages more flowering
Major annual pruning on shrubs that bloom in the summer should be performed in late winter when the plants are dormant. A light pruning now, however, has a couple of benefits. Much like annual flowering plants, trimming off faded flowers encourages additional blooms on many shrubs, including butterfly bushes and roses. Removing awkward growth and lightly shaping keeps them neat and tidy.
38. Take Cuttings From Shrubs and Roses
Fall cuttings are the easiest way to grow new plants
Semi-hardwood cuttings, taken from firm stems with mature leaves in the fall have a high success rate. Make each cutting 4″-6″ long – use a sharp, sterilized knife, remove the lower leaves, trim remaining leaves in half, and treat the stems with a rooting compound. Place the cuttings in a sterile, well-drained medium that retains moisture – coarse sand or a mixture of sand, perlite, and peat – and water. Cover the container or tray with plastic to maintain humidity and mist frequently.
39. Harvest Pole Beans
Pick now for easy dry storage
Packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins, dry pole beans store well for extended periods of time. Beans should remain on the plant as long as possible and harvested only during dry weather – wet conditions promote mold. Leave pods spread out to dry until they become brittle, separate beans from the pods, and leave the beans to air dry for two weeks before storing in airtight containers.
Zones 1 – 5, September.
40. Plant a Bed of Wildflowers
For a wonderful show of color next spring
What to plant in august? Wildflowers! For a successful wildflower garden, take a cue from Mother Nature and plant the seeds in fall. In the wild, they simply fall from the plant and nestle into their new environment over the winter months. Prepare the planting bed by digging or rototilling, removing large rocks, and raking smooth. Scatter the seeds on the soil’s surface – do not cover them, firm the soil, and water well.
41. Fertilize Your Plants With a Layer of Compost
It replaces nutrients used up over the summer
Actively growing plants deplete the soil of many nutrients, so we must replace those nutrients to keep our gardens thriving and give the plants the reserves they need to make it through the winter. Not only does compost provide those nutrients, but it also retains moisture, moderates soil temperatures, improves the soil’s texture, and encourages the growth of beneficial microbes.
42. Make Grape Jam or Jelly
Jams and Jellies preserve that burst of late summer flavor
As a glaze for pork tenderloin, baked into cookies, or in an old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich, jams and jellies are wonderfully versatile. Use the pulp and skin to make jam and juice only to make jelly, adding sugar according to the recipe. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches a gelling point; fill clean jars and process in a boiling water canner.
43. Test Your Garden Soil
Discover how to optimize your soil’s growth potential
You can determine your soil’s structure; it’s permeability, and the presence of beneficial organisms, like earthworms, simply by careful observation. What you cannot tell is whether you have a deficiency in a specific nutrient or how acidic your soil is. A simple soil test will analyze the composition and character of your soil, providing recommendations on soil additives such as lime or sulfur, based on what you wish to grow. Most county cooperative extension services provide this test, free of charge, to county residents, but you can also purchase a test kit at your local garden or farm center.
As August fades, gardeners will be greeted by autumn: the season of harvest. In the next chapter, you’ll learn when to sow seeds for a colorful salad garden, how to cultivate perfectly prepared gourds, and how to keep your garden growing through first frost with hoophouses and rowcovers.