Getting Started on Your Summer Gardens

By Joel Lerner
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Here are activities that you could do in the garden now.

-- Getting started. Move tropical houseplants outside to decks and patios. Give them the chance to acclimatize in a protected location for a week or so. Plant annuals for summer color, and vegetables for nourishment. Net blueberries as they ripen to protect them from birds. Rejuvenate strawberry plants after harvesting with general purpose, water-soluble fertilizers consisting of a 5-10-5 analysis.

-- Preparing soil. Install flora in a water-efficient way. For good drainage and moisture retention, incorporate about one-third compost with two-thirds native soil in planting beds. Dig deeply to prepare the soil. Keep new plantings moist while they are establishing, especially when it's 85 to 90 degrees. Site conditions, soil type, slope, sun and temperature dictate irrigation requirements.

-- Debris. Most maple seeds, tulip popular petals, hickory and oak catkins, and flowers and foliage from other plants have already fallen. Other than weeding and a little pruning, debris does not collect again in mass until fall.

-- Compost. Install annuals with slow-release fertilizer with about a 10-6-4 analysis. June is a good time to lay one inch of compost around all plantings for nutrition. This organic material will lighten the soil, make it more fertile, and give better moisture retention, aeration and drainage. Mulch has the longest aesthetic impact spread as a veneer of ornamental double-shredded aged hardwood bark or pine bark over the compost. Water annuals, houseplants and container plantings as needed. See fertilizing information below.

-- Water. Use common sense to determine when plants need water. Stick your finger into the soil to make sure surface roots are moist. Get to the base of roots using a quarter-inch diameter wooden dowel, poking it into the soil to check for moisture. It will indicate how deep the water percolated. Drip irrigation is preferable, but lawns need to be watered with sprinklers if you plan to have turf.

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