It’s high summer, and everything is growing great guns including the weeds. So getting rid of them is one important chore right now. The best advice always remains that digging out a weed, root and all, is the way to assure that they are gone. Remove the whole plant if possible, but buy some time by at least lopping off the plant before it goes to flower and spreads those methuselan seeds that will plague you for years to come.
With the weather so sublime out of doors, this is the best time to give the indoor plants a break by bringing them outside. Be sure to give them enough cover so that they don’t sunburn. Scorching them will compromise their good looks for a long time and possibly deal them a deathblow. Give them a good shower with the hose to increase the humidity and ease the transition. Soak their roots thoroughly; there may be a buildup of salts (the potentially toxic residue of those chemical fertilizers like Miracle-Gro) that are easier to leach out while they are outside. Before they go back into their indoor cave, feed them again with a soluble organic fertilizer.
A good rule for watering potted plants is “do it twice”. Fill the pot up to the rim, and wait for the water to soak into the soil. Then do it again. If that doesn’t produce some seepage from out of the bottom holes, repeat it until it does. This assures that the whole root ball has been thoroughly drenched; if it isn’t, some of the roots will die off, and the whole plant will suffer.
When planting or transplanting anything this month, be sure to monitor the soil moisture carefully until they are well established. Make sure to drench that original pot diameter and beyond so that the new expanding roots can establish into the new environment. It’s also a good time to give trees and larger woody shrubs a good soaking. The amount of water that an individual tree can transport up from its roots each day is on the order of gallons.
Most of the other chores are pretty self-explanatory: Harvest vegetables so the plants will continue to produce (and there are none of those monster zucchini that seem to grow just over night), and deadhead flowers for the same reason. Extend the season with more successional plantings of tomatoes and peppers in the vegetable plot and all those favorite summer annuals like petunia, marigold, portulaca, zinnia, and verbena.
Divide bearded iris this month, replanting nice big clumps and passing the extras along to friends and neighbors. Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are dormant now, too, and easy to propagate. Dig up the clumps, cut into two- to three-inch pieces, and replant immediately.
Watch for pests. Now that it is warm and dry, spider mites are one of the worst. Leaves of affected plants will be finely mottled, and there may be fine webbing on the undersides. Wash off with a strong spray of water, and maintain a higher level of humidity to ward them off. In fact, that’s the best advice for most insect pests.
Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.