We have all been entranced by the New Horizon spacecraft’s approach to the (dwarf) planet Pluto, watching the photographs emerge from the dark of space. But if we turn our eyes down to the ground during the daylight of our own star/sun, our gardens now are in the full heat of sun and summer. Our tasks for mid-July to mid-August turn from spring planting to growth, maintenance, and watering.
- Watch the vegetable crops. Apply a balanced fertilizer (5-10-5) to long season crops, which are most of our typical summer vegetables.
- Fertilize roses for the last time by mid-August.
- Do you have hanging baskets? Feed them as you irrigate since frequent watering flushes fertilizer from containers.
- If you have taken indoor plants outside for the summer, be sure to fertilize them.
- When the harvest is finished, fertilize strawberry plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer (21-0-0).
- Plant some cool weather crops (such as beets, escarole, kale, collards, lettuce, radish, turnip, chard, and spinach) for a fall harvest.
- Do be aware that when the temperature is over 90o F, tomatoes and peppers won’t set fruit.
- Iris need to be thinned about every three to four years, otherwise they will become crowded and will not bloom well. By mid-August, divide iris by cutting them apart and discarding old, large or diseased rhizomes. Healthy rhizomes can be replanted or given away as pass-along plants.
- Divide spring-blooming perennials (if needed) by mid-August.
- After once-bearing raspberries and blackberries finish fruiting, cut the producing canes to the ground, the new season’s canes will produce berries next year.
- Continue to dead-head annuals and perennials to keep new blossoms coming.
- Start harvesting vegetables.
- Try to keep the soil moisture consistent around tomato plants to prevent the fruit from cracking. (An inexpensive moisture meter is an invaluable aid to checking soil dampness.)
- Check moisture levels around newly planted trees and shrubs. Again, water thoroughly if the soil is dry.
- Keep about four inches of mulch around plantings and in garden beds to help retain moisture. Refresh or add new mulch to the garden as necessary.
- Per CSU, “check the top and outer leaves of trees and shrubs for drought injury: brown or tan scorch on broad leaves and brown needles or dead tips on conifers. Check the bottom and inside leaves for over-watering: faded color between the veins and dropping leaves or needles. CSU Fact sheet 2.932 tells more about drought and over-watering.”
- Water your lawn 2 to 2-1/4 inches per week through July, decreasing to 1 ¾-2 inches per week in August, if the weather is hot and dry.
- Mow to keep the grass height 2 -1/2 to 3 inches.
- Check hanging plants twice a day for dry soil and water as needed.
Now is the time to stroll through the garden, nurture the wonderful produce, and enjoy the perfume of our flowers. Of course, there is always something to do in the garden, no matter what the season. Happy gardening!
By Mary Beth Cooper, Denver County Master Gardener
Major source for this article is “Down to Earth in Denver”, an online CSU extension monthly calendar of gardening tasks. The link is http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4DMG/Calendar/gardenin.htm