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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Get plants ready for the hot summer days ahead

Cole crops like cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower are heavy feeders. Pat Munts  scattered white granules of 16-16-16 fertilizer around the roots. They will need another application around Aug. 1. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)
Cole crops like cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower are heavy feeders. Pat Munts scattered white granules of 16-16-16 fertilizer around the roots. They will need another application around Aug. 1. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s the Fourth of July, and the corn should be knee-high in the garden. Or maybe not just yet. The cold, wet late winter put most crops at least two to three weeks behind and the cooler weather in June didn’t help much. Peonies were late, so were the irises and raspberries. So, what are some strategies for keeping the garden on track until the hot weather shows up in mid-July?

Make sure vegetable plants are getting regular watering and fertilizer so they are ready to jump when the hot weather gets here. Keep the soil evenly moist but not soaking wet. I find I need to water my raised beds every three to four days for 45 minutes right now. When it gets hot that will be increased to every other day. Watering well now loads the soil so that when it gets hot, the roots can go deep for water and avoid stress.

Most vegetables, roses and spring-blooming perennials could use a fertilizer application now. Most vegetables are established and are ready for their next growth spurt. Corn, tomatoes, the cole crops, melons and squash, peppers and onions are heavy feeders. Whether you use a conventional or organic fertilizer, follow the application directions on the bag. Keep in mind that organic fertilizers release their nutrients more slowly than the conventional fertilizers so their response won’t be immediate.

Roses and spring-flowering perennials need an application of fertilizer now. Roses are starting to bloom and that takes a lot of energy. They will need one more application at the beginning of August. This will allow the plants enough time to harden off the new growth before the winter sets in. Tender growth is easily damaged by freezing temperatures.

If you haven’t mulched your beds yet, get it done soon. Weed an area well and then apply a 2-inch to 3-inch layer of shredded bark, untreated grass clippings or shredded pine needles making sure you get it under leaf canopies. The mulch will hold in moisture and reduce the weeds. Don’t mulch beds against your house if you are in wildfire areas as embers can easily ignite it.

Are your irises getting overgrown? Late July is the best time to thin them out. Dig up clumps and replant the biggest rhizomes about a foot apart. The rhizomes should be set so that the top is right at the soil surface. Trim leaf fans down by half to reduce the demand for water while the roots re-establish. Water them in well and cover with a light mulch.

Spend some time cleaning up any flammable debris around the house and yard to reduce wildfire hazards. Trim branches up at least 6 feet to 8 feet at the edges of your property and mow tall grasses and weeds. Remove dead foliage and pine needles from shrub and flower beds within 10 feet of the house. Pick up or move lumber and wood piles that are against the house. Clean the pine needles off your roof.

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