If you want to grow a specific shade of Hydrangea or an acid loving plant like Blueberries, the pH, which refers to the relative acidity or alkalinity of your soil, is incredibly important. Some region’s soils are naturally more acidic or alkaline than others, while other factors like adjacency to acidic trees like pine trees can significantly affect the dirt.
There are many kits available at garden centers and big box stores that allow you to test your soil and get a relatively accurate reading of the pH. If you are planning on doing a large landscaping project, take several tests throughout the project area as the pH can vary widely, even within relatively small areas.
While many think of pruning as an autumn task, plenty of pruning can also be done in early summer or even periodically throughout the summer. Heavy pruning should always be limited to times when the plant is dormant and thus less prone to stress, but targeted pruning meant to encourage new growth is a relaxing summer activity.
Fruit trees, in particular, can benefit from gentle summer pruning to encourage healthy new growth. Rosebushes can also benefit from summer pruning, as it will be obvious which canes are not flourishing by late summer. Always prune with clean shears to prevent disease transmission between plants.
Far and away, the most fun summer gardening task is to harvest the spoils of your hard work! As fruits and vegetables begin to ripen, they will attract many pests, including various insects and even little furry pests like chipmunks and squirrels.
Promptly harvesting ripe fruits and veggies not only ensures the best products for you and your family, but it also prevents flies and beetles from viewing your garden as an all-day buffet! Fallen fruit and vegetables also quickly become host to numerous pests and their eggs, so, as much as possible, always keep up with harvesting your delicious garden treats!
Alongside ripe and fallen fruits and vegetables, dead plants are also preferred hosts and snack sources for countless insects. They can also quickly spread any disease, especially if a disease is what killed them. Wet dead plants are also breeding grounds for fungus and disease.
If you see a plant that is declining rapidly, it’s safest to remove it before it has a chance to infect neighboring plants. Never let dead plants stay in the soil near other plants. Promptly removing dead plants will help your remaining plants stay strong and healthy.
In addition to removing dead plants, weeding, and keeping vegetables and fruit promptly harvested, there are other natural methods you can use to keep pests at bay throughout the summer. Some plants can be grown as natural bug repellent borders, and many safe, organic chemicals work for controlling pests.
Marigolds are well-known for their characteristic odor, and thankfully many insects hate that odor too, as do deer. Planting a thick bed of marigolds around a food garden can help keep down pests. Neem oil, vinegar sprays, and many other safe chemical remedies can also be used to treat insect infestations or even prevent them.
If you have a large vegetable garden and the weeds are tough to manage, summer isn’t too late to plant a cover crop. Cover crops help stabilize and retain topsoil while also potentially adding nutrients to your soil, depending on the type of cover crop. Cover crops are also typically quick growing, which allows them to choke out slower growing grasses and weeds.
Some conventional summer cover crops include buckwheat, millet, and sun hemp. These cover crops are all suited to hot temperatures and dryer conditions, making them an ideal choice over cool-season cover crops like clover or winter wheat. Many cover crops can even be mowed to keep them tidy for backyard gardens.
While raking is typically associated with the bounty of fallen autumn leaves, raking is beneficial throughout the entire growing season. Whenever you weed or mow, if you notice an accumulation of debris on your grass, giving it a quick rake can help aerate it and keep disease and insects from spreading.
Raking in between rows in a vegetable garden is also a quick and easy way to eliminate easy to pull, weak-rooted weeds like young amaranths and pigweeds. However, raking does agitate soil which can cause further weed growth down the road, so weigh your options with rake weed control.
Even in the peak of summer’s heat and sunshine, it’s never too early to start thinking about the beautiful colors of autumn and plan out your autumn plantings. Autumn is an ideal time to plant fall classics like Mums and Sedums, as well as all but the tenderest perennials.
As plants begin to go dormant in autumn, it’s the perfect time to plant, transplant, and divide them without overly shocking the plant. Any landscape plants that you didn’t have time to plant in the spring would happily go into the garden come autumn, so grab a notebook and start planning your autumn additions!
Part of planning your autumn gardening projects can be starting seedlings for autumn transplants. The warm, intense sun of summer is ideal for starting seeds indoors as your soil will easily reach the required temperatures, which can be a struggle in spring when seeds are traditionally started.
Perennial grasses are a fantastic introductory project on seed starting as they germinate quickly and grow and transplant very well. Many perennials that can be planted in fall are suitable for starting indoors in summer, which is also a fantastic summer break educational project for kids.
Hardscaping refers to the hard permanent and semi-permanent materials in your landscaping, such as pavers, bricks, and so on. Summer is a great time to clean, inspect, and repair your hardscaping before another winter sets in and does further damage.
A power washer is an excellent investment for any homeowner with a lot of hardscaping, as they can easily wash away the grime that accumulates throughout the winter and spring. After power washing, look for chips, cracks, and other damage that could worsen over time. Patch whatever you can, and call in a professional for more extensive or structural damage.
In addition to acidity and alkalinity, there are numerous tests you can perform on your soil to determine its overall composition and health. The nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium levels give valuable insight into how much fertilizer you will need to apply throughout the growing season, while the pH can help direct what you plant where.
If you are planning a vegetable garden, test in at least a few areas to make sure your soil is uniform, and if it isn’t, work to remedy that through soil modifications like fertilizer, sand, coffee grounds, and more. For large landscaping projects, perform many tests to ensure that all of your various plants will be happy and healthy.
Summer pruning also means summer keeping shrubs and hedges tidy. While the bulk of hedge and shrub shaping and pruning should occur when the plants are dormant in fall or early spring, fine-tuning should be done in the summer when you can see the shrubs and hedges in their fully leafed-out form.
For any flowering shrubs and hedges, wait until the flowers are complete before doing any pruning. Never prune a plant while it is flowering or bearing fruit, as it could significantly stress the plant. Keep an eye out for not pruning too much new growth as well, as this is also shocking to a plant.
Summer, with its bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, farmer’s markets, and maybe even your own backyard garden, is the perfect time to start a composting system. There are multiple methods, from simple backyard piles to high-tech indoor closed systems, which make composting a breeze.
No matter which method you choose, never compost meat products or meat-eating animal feces; these items can harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites that composting may not eradicate. For open compost piles, do not build them near any structures, as the composting process can generate enough heat to start small fires.
Whether it is your own dogs or the neighbor’s faithful Fido who uses the same pee spot every day, dog urine will eventually cause at least a few chemically burned patches in your yard. The only way to prevent this damage is to rinse and dilute the urine immediately after it is deposited, but that sounds like much work, especially in a busy dog-walking area.
To repair, rather than prevent, the damage, dig up burned areas in early summer and reseed them with the appropriate grass mix to both match the pre-existing grass type and the shade or sun conditions. Keep the seeds evenly moist until they begin growing. Erect a temporary fence to keep dogs out while the area heals.
No matter how carefully you plan, it is almost inevitable that your perennial garden will end up with a few bald spots. Either a plant will die, grow in a direction you didn’t plan, or just not thrive and fill out the way you had anticipated. Don’t worry, this happens to every gardener and is easy to fix with annuals!
Many annuals are hardy enough to transplant throughout the summer, even in hot conditions, as long as you water them well and deeply after transplanting. Fill in bald spots with brightly colored, beautiful annuals and no one will ever know that Cosmo was really meant to be a Columbine. As the annual dies back, replace it in the fall with another perennial for a beautiful spring appearance.
Some profoundly tender bulb flowers, like the Canna Lily, are best planted in summer as opposed to spring, as they cannot tolerate any amount of frost. In northern climates, like USDA zone 4 or above, other summer bulbs like Dahlias and Gladiolus are best planted in early summer as well, due to the threat of late frosts.
To plant summer bulbs, merely plant them as you would autumn or spring bulbs, but apply more watering than you usually would due to the reduced risk of rot and hotter conditions. While planting your summer bulbs, note carefully their locations and which ones need to be dug back up for over-wintering, so you don’t forget them!
While it may sound mean, pinching early flower heads off of many late-blooming perennials is one of the best things you can do for them! Pinching off early shoot growth forces perennials to focus on growing strong roots along with shorter, bushier habits; these elements are ideal for a plant’s health.
Sedums, Bee Balms, and many other later-blooming summer and autumn perennials greatly benefit from pinching early growth, so as you peruse the beauty of your flower garden and deadhead old flowers, also spend a few minutes pinching off unnecessary new growth so that your perennials will be absolute showstoppers later in the season.
While many of the items on this list have dealt with how to avoid insect pests, there are actually several insects that are beneficial to gardens. Praying Mantis and Ladybugs are two incredibly helpful insects that help keep your garden safe by eating problematic bugs like aphids.
Some garden catalogs offer to ship Praying Mantis egg sacs and live Ladybugs directly to your door for introduction into your garden. Yarrow, Angelica, Cosmos, and many other flowers are attractive to both Mantis and Ladybugs; they will help make your garden home to beneficial predatory insects.
Succession planting is a popular and productive method of vegetable gardening in which crops are carefully timed and planted both to keep producing throughout the season as well as encouraging plants to grow at the peak times for their heat and water requirements.
To try out succession planting in your own garden, a simple method is to pull spent beans towards the middle to end of the summer and replace them with peas or another cool-weather crop. There are many guides online for how best to follow succession planting in your specific USDA zone and climate.