Summer Prep Chores for the Garden

Get your garden ready for summer with this seasonal checklist.
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Refresh Mulch

Add mulch around established plantings and on new beds to soil retain moisture as temperatures start to climb. A mulch layer also helps suppress weeds. Aim for a 2 to 3 inch layer.

Check Hose Fittings

Before summer watering kicks into high gear, double-check your tools. Make sure fittings aren’t leaky and that nozzles work properly. If connections are leaking, wrap plumber’s tape around threads and see if that solves the problem. Look for ergonomic watering features, like this push button nozzle.

Move Houseplants Outside

Give houseplants a vacation from indoor conditions by moving them to a protected location on a porch or patio. Slip them into cachepots to create a pretty display. Heavy ceramic pots also help to anchor houseplants and keep them upright on windy days.

Pinch Plants

Plants like Kong Coleus, bee balm, agastache and basil benefit from a pinch. Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch out the top pair of leaves, or use small clippers to snip stems. Pinch back to another lower pair of leaves. Pinch causes plants to branch and become bushier. With perennials like bee balm and agastache, it’s best to do this before flower buds set.

Prune Spring Bloomers

Give spring flowering shrubs a trim right after the last blossoms fade. Place cuts to shape the shrub, reduce overall height or improve bushiness.

Clip Suckers

While you have your pruners out, check trees for suckers. Snip any you see, cutting them as close to the trunk as possible.

Plant Summer Tropicals

Tuck summer plants like cannas and elephant ears into containers and flower beds. These tropical stunners need warm soil to take off. Once temperatures rise, growth occurs quickly.

Automate Watering

Make watering a hands-free affair by using soaker hoses, sprinklers and timers. Soaker hoses are an excellent investment because they deliver water directly to soil, which means you don’t lose it through evaporation. If you’ve never used soaker hoses before, get your feet wet by trying it in one small area to see how you like it.

Protect Your Crops

Berry crops and cherries benefit from having a layer of bird netting tossed over them. The lightweight plastic netting is nearly invisible from a distance, and you can also use it to protect plants from browsing deer and rabbits. Bird netting is big enough to let pollinating insects through while keeping problem critters at bay.

Remove Spent Flowers

For many annuals, including ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ zinnia, it’s important to snip dead blooms. Removing dead flowers encourages new flower buds to form because it prevents plants from setting seed. Dead blossoms can also become sources of disease and give pests a place to hide. Getting rid of them also helps plants look neat.

Scout for Bug Problems

Check plants regularly for pest problems. Learn what kinds of pests are most likely to attack plants and become familiar with those pest life cycles. With cole crops like Brussels sprouts or cabbage, if you spot the white butterflies of the cabbage worm in the garden, you should check leaves for eggs. One of the best ways to scout plants is taking a daily walk through your garden.

Keep Up with Harvest

Growing edibles means you’ll need to carve out time to keep up with the harvest. Some vegetables, like zucchini, cucumbers or beans, taste better when they’re picked on the small side. Other crops, like butternut squash or pumpkin, simply sit through a long growing season, requiring little attention.

Feed Annuals

Many annuals, especially those in containers, benefit from regular fertilizer applications. If you added slow-release fertilizer at planting time, plan to refresh it about six weeks later. Plants may give you a clue they’re hungry by showing yellow leaves, but it’s better to fertilize before they reach that point.

Stake Tomatoes

If you didn’t add stakes to tomatoes at planting time, get them in place before summer kicks into high gear. Take time to tie tomatoes to stakes as they grow. Supporting stems as they grow keeps ripening fruit off the ground and away from pests and can also help prevent disease outbreaks.

Deal with Weeds

Attack weeds in early summer, while they’re still small. Use a handheld sprayer to treat existing weeds in sidewalk, driveway and patio cracks. Sprinkle a pre-emergent weed killer into cracks to prevent other weed seeds from germinating.

Stake Tall Flowers

Strong summer storms often topple tall, top-heavy bloomers. Giant sunflowers usually hold their own if they’re spaced properly, although some of the shorter types may benefit from staking, especially if they’re planted tightly. Other plants worth staking include hollyhock, tall cosmos varieties and love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus).

Sharpen Mower Blade

Want a green, healthy lawn? One secret is cutting with a sharp mower blade. It’s easy to sharpen a blade with a file. Consider buying a second blade that you keep on hand, always sharp, so that when you remove the dull blade, you can slip the sharp one into place and get right back to mowing.

Harvest Herbs before Flowering

For herbs that you plan to harvest and preserve, like basil, oregano or mint, it’s best to clip stems before they bloom. Pinch out flower buds when you see them forming to prolong the harvest. Once flowers form, the flavor in leaves changes.