Summer heat is arriving with its usual ferocity. Some plants may be suffering from it– as well as some of us. That’s no reason to stop our favorite pastime. Set up a drip irrigation system. Plant some okra, southern peas, and sweet potatoes. Start an herb garden.
Drip irrigation has come a long way since it was first developed about 60 years ago in Israel by Simca Blass. There are now hose timers, both manual and electric. Add a solar-powered timer to the hose bib to reduce your work load. New WiFi-directed hose bib controllers add pizzazz to drip irrigation systems. Drip gets the water directly to the roots of the plants where it is needed.
Don’t let the temperature stop you from planting heat-tolerant vegetables. Okra loves the heat, as do southern peas, and some greens (Malabar and amaranth). It’s also not too late to plant sweet potatoes.
By this time, beans and other spring crops have probably stopped producing. Tomatoes will stop producing when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees and nights are consistently above 75 degrees. Remove the non-producing plants and compost them. Gardeners who practice the “no-till” method can snip the plants off at the ground and allow the root systems to decompose into the garden soil.
Lightly fertilize summer vegetables once or twice a month. The exception is southern peas (black eyes, purple hulls, crowders, and zipper creams, and several other varieties. Southern peas have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil and do not need fertilization.
Beware of grasshoppers, stink bugs, and leaf-footed bugs. Peas are particularly susceptible to bean leaf beetles and aphids. Okra and tomatoes suffer from stink bugs, leaf-footed bugs. Neem oil is an excellent way to organically treat for these pests or you can simply pick off the bugs and drop them into soapy water. Insecticidal soap also works well.
If you don’t plan to have a summer garden, use this time to build up nutrients into the soil, ready for your fall garden. Mix compost into the garden. The compost adds nutrients into your garden, and inoculates the soil with beneficial microbes.
Many herbs originate in the Mediterranean area and are thus accustomed to heat and dryer conditions. Some of the herbs that do well here include basil, mint, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, and tarragon. These herbs thrive with morning sun and partial sun in the afternoon.
Dill, fennel, yarrow, marjoram, lemon verbena, and lavender require more sun – about 9 hours- to produce the essential oils they are known for
It’s still okay to sod lawns this month. Remember that newly-sodded lawns require only an inch of water per week. Overwatering can cause serious fungal problems that may not be evident for months.
Even with established lawns, ½ to one inch of water is enough to keep the grass healthy. Watering an inch a week, less if it rains, will keep your lawns green and healthy.
Begin mowing once a week to encourage growth. Healthy turf will choke out weeds and provide you with a beautiful green lawn.
Don’t forget to mulch the cut grass back into the lawn. Recycling the clippings in this way will provide enough nutrients to equal two or three fertilizer applications.
Think about planting flowering ornamentals, like vitex, althea, buddleia, and hydrangeas, which bloom well into the summer. There are many varieties of salvias that also provide summer color. Tropical sage, Mexican bush sage, mealycup sage, Gregg’s sage, and blue anise sage are examples.
Also, consider plants that do not flower, but provide summer color. Some of these include artemisia, caladium, canna, coleus, shell gingers.