FEED FLOWERS Summer annual flowers are go-for-broke types of plants. They have only a few months in which to grow, flower, form seed and die. Gardeners are usually more interested in the flowering part of their life cycle but not the rest. You can increase the flowers on most plants by stimulating new growth. New growth is encouraged to appear on plants with a regular application of fertilizer. The rule of thumb is to fertilize your flower beds every month with one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer scattered over one hundred square feet.
DEADHEAD Since a plant’s goal is simply to reproduce itself, once it has produced mature flowers, it will often stop producing any more. You can eliminate the signals telling the plant to stop flowering by regularly removing faded flowers. Petunias, cosmos, salvia and marigolds all will start blooming once again if old flowers are removed. The process is called ‘deadheading’ and though it is a boring and repetitive job, your plants will blissfully bloom if you do it often.
CHECK FOR BUGS I found evidence of the black vine weevil on my flame azalea last week and was glad I could catch the problem early. These beetles feed at night, so they are seldom seen by gardeners. They chew irregular notches on the edges of azalea and rhododendron leaves. While the adults do their damage above, the larvae slowly consume the roots of the shrub. I sprinkled insecticide granules around the base of each plant and sprayed the foliage with a garden insecticide at dusk one night to stop these pests in their tracks.
MAINTENANCE PRUNING Summer showers help me make up my mind about which limbs on my trees need to be removed. After a rainstorm it is easy to see which ones are drooping low enough to swat me in the face when I mow. For each one I decide whether I should remove the whole limb or just shorten it a bit. I don’t worry about hurting the tree. The rule of thumb is that you can remove one-fourth of any plant’s foliage during the summer without harming it.
PICTURES Photographs wouldn’t have served my father very well in recording his triumphs of chicken and cattle husbandry but they can be invaluable for you. Try to use the last few frames on every roll of film to record how your landscape changes over time. Then, if you are asked ten years hence how your plants compare to the ones before, you’ll have more than a smooth board on which to prove your progress.