Doing simple things makes your garden better

In July it is important to enjoy the garden and to do simple things to make the garden better.

In July it is important to enjoy the garden and to do simple things to make the garden better.

For those with a vegetable garden, make sure that the root vegetables have enough room to grow and expand. This can be done by removing the big vegetables and eating them or by thinning.

Pulling out excess carrots, beets and turnips now will allow the others to grow and mature. Continue thinning the crop through out the season by removing plants in all areas of the garden for the table.

Other crops will also need to be thinned if the plants do not have enough room to mature.

At this time of year, apple trees often drop immature fruit. These are the ones that did not get pollinated. Most apple trees carry excess fruit.

Removing some of the small fruit now will allow the tree to put more energy into the remaining fruit.

The rule of thumb is to keep one fruit per six inches or hand width. Excess fruit will remove easily if they are gently bent towards the centre of the fruit cluster.

Now is the time to prune shrubs that flower early in the season: lilacs, double flowering plum and Nanking cherries.

As flowerbuds develop during the summer on early-flowering shrubs, pruning them in the fall or winter when they are dormant will remove next season’s flowers.

Start pruning by removing dead or diseased wood.

Then remove some of the old growth in the centre of the plant to allow light to enter, which will trigger new growth.

Lastly, shape the plant.

Always make the cut at another branch or at the ground level. Never remove more than a quarter of the growth as it will stress the plant, causing it to put out excess growth that will be straggly.

Deadhead the perennials once the bloom is spent.

The plant will then put energy back into to the plant as opposed to making seed. Lack of seed means less weeding in the spring and there is a chance of a second flush of flowers.

Annuals are less likely to need deadheading as many of the varieties grown by greenhouses today are incapable of setting seed.

Lack of seed means the plant will continue to bloom all summer.

Annuals that were started by seed will set seed and need to have their dead flowers removed.

Once the seed has developed, the plant has completed its life cycle and will produce few if any flowers. Deadheading is a necessity to keep seeded plants flowering.

Weeding is part of gardening.

Removing weeds before they flower insures that there will be less weeds next season.

That being said, do not trample and destroy the garden to remove weeds.

Compost will kill seeds if it is hot enough for a long enough period of time but most often seeds are still viable after going through the average backyard compost.

Chickweed is a problem for many gardeners. It forms a mat along the ground and breaks when it is pulled.

Each piece that is pulled is capable of forming a new plant. It can be pulled and placed in a bucket and removed from the garden but this is time consuming. Hoeing, raking and removing the weed has proven successful.

Once the chickweed has been removed, the soil dries and no longer provides the ideal growing conditions for the weed.

Cultivation also works if it is repeated regularly, keeping the soil black, otherwise the cultivator will break the plant into pieces and replant it.

There is always a better kill when weeding is completed on a hot day.

Planters need to be watered and fertilized on a regular basis to keep the plants healthy.

Very little, if any, soil is in commercial soil mixes.

That means that the plants rely on the fertilizer for all their nutrients. Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer container.

It just takes a little bit of time now to keep the garden looking great the rest of the season.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com.

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