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Mid-July Garden Maintenance

Mid-July Garden Maintenance

Suddenly we’ve arrived at mid-summer. It’s almost a month after the Solstice, and about two months since we’ve had significant rainfall. (Note: Yes, it’s poured a few times in random places on the Cape. But even when a thundershower delivers an inch in a downpour, that’s not nearly as beneficial as a 12 hour gentle, soaking rainfall.) It’s been lovely beach weather, but our plants need more than the lick-and-a-promise, 20 minute irrigation every other day.

In addition to a long, deep sprinkling every five or six days, there are other small duties that can make our gardens more attractive or functional. Here’s a photo list of some of those tasks.

There are two approaches to catmint (aka Nepeta) plants in the perennial garden. By mid-July their flowers have faded and are no longer the vibrant blue blooms that once filled the stems. The first possibility is to leave the plant as is. Don’t touch it until August. It looks okay, but fills a huge space in the garden without being very colorful.
The second way to handle the catmint is to cut it to the ground. This photo shows how this perennial looks 10 days after cutting all the long, fading stems down to 2″ tall. The red arrow points to one of the Nepeta plants, and you can see how in a very short time the plant has grown some fresh, attractive foliage. Note too that I’ve planted Orange Profusion Zinnias around these plants in the open spaces that the Nepeta used to cover. The advantage of cutting this plant down is that it opens up real estate where you can place annuals for flower-power that lasts into Fall.
So the choice of cutting back catmint is up to you. Leave it, or cut it back and plant annuals? No right or wrong, no best or better here…advantages and disadvantages either way.
It’s HYDRANGEA flowering time on Cape Cod! Yay! Know that the color in a hydrangea develops over time and you don’t have to do anything to help it along. If your hydrangea has been turning pink and you want it blue, apply sulfur on the top of the soil from the center of the plant to a foot beyond the dripline. You might have to do this again in September and next spring. In general, however, on Cape Cod our hydrangeas will be blue if we do nothing, since our soil is naturally acidic.
It’s time to harvest garlic! Once the tips of the foliage starts to turn brown, it’s time to get the garden fork and loosen the soil so you can pull the heads out. after you’ve shaken the dirt off the roots, tie them in bunches and hang them in a shed or other covered space with good air circulation. After a week or two they will be cured and ready to clean up and store.
Keep your eyes open for the Eastern tent caterpillar! They can make their homes in shrubs or trees, and very quickly decimate the foliage. If you see them, cut them out and dispose of them. Removing the branches, tents, caterpillars and all, is faster and more effective then any spaying would be.
It’s time to tie up tomatoes! Even if you have your tomatoes growing in a cage or against a stake, the long stems might need tying now so that the weight of developing tomatoes doesn’t drag branches to the ground. And while you’re focused on the veggie garden, spray your summer squash with Green Cure, even if it’s not yet showing signs of mildew. An ounce of prevention and all that.
These are just a few small tasks that will improve your landscape, dinner table and frame of mind in mid-summer.
Take some time to sit outside and look at the life around you. Watch the birds, observe beetles and ants on the ground, and appreciate the dragonflies as they zip around or rest on foliage. Watching nature is calming and contributes to good health. Enjoy.
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