In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2004
Regional Report

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Beautiful bougainvillea can become a monster if not pruned during the growing season.

Mid-Season Madness!

It's midsummer, and if you're like me, your garden is looking a bit seedy. Watering, deadheading, and weeding are the main chores this time of year, but there is also some mid-season maintenance that needs to be done to keep your garden looking it's best.

Trimming
Annuals tend to get leggy in midsummer. Petunias, impatiens, and mimulas can all stand a haircut about now. If you don't want to see them denuded, try cutting them back by one-third every other week. However, I suggest that you bite the bullet and cut them back all at once. The sooner they are cut, the sooner they will recover. Fertilize with 22-14-14 a few days after you trim so that they will make a faster reappearance.

Fuchsias need to be cut back too. These beautiful shrubs only bloom on new wood, so by removing the branches holding the spent blooms, you not only increase the amount of flowers but also the amount of blooming wood. A nice bit of fertilizer won't hurt them either, just so they get the idea.

It's also a good idea to trim ground covers lightly. Vinca and hypericum can withstand a mowing this time of year, if you don't mind looking at the cut stems. Fertilize and water after mowing.

Vines such as wisteria need to be controlled. They'll escape into the telephone wires in a heartbeat unless you keep them cut back. Jasmine gets real rangy looking if you don't go over those stringers with the hedge shears.

Watering
Midsummer means there has been no rain for several months. Deep-rooted trees and shrubs will benefit from a deep watering. Either use a soaker hose and allow the water to run all day, or use a deep-watering spike, available at nurseries. Redwood trees really benefit from a midsummer watering. They are shallow rooted and suffer from drought stress in the form of spider mite invasions unless they are growing in an irrigated area.

Make sure your irrigation is still in good working order, especially drip systems. Turn on the sprinklers to check for plugged heads and to make sure they are pointed in the right direction.

Give the bougainvillea a good drink and some fertilizer to keep it blooming through the end of summer.

Cymbidium orchids need the big fertilizer switch now. Discontinue the high-nitrogen food and start them on a fertilizer higher in phosphorus and potassium to encourage the spring bloom.

If you live in a dusty area, wash your plants so they can photosynthesize. Even a light layer of dust inhibits photosynthesis, and encourages insect pests. Wash plants in the early morning so they have time to dry off during the heat of the day.

Powdery mildew is beginning to make it's annual appearance, so try not to use overhead watering on susceptible plants. It's probably more important to select plants that are resistant, but it's too late for that now. Use a nontoxic fungicide made of baking soda, and promise yourself that you won't plant zucchini again next year.

Don't forget your indoor plants. Take them outside for a soothing afternoon shower, but don't forget to bring them back inside. Plants get sunburned too, and you'll have to live with the splotchy brown leaves for a long time.

Weeds steal nutrients and water from cultivated plants. Don't let them get out of control. Water the day before you decide to pull weeds. The damp soil will help those roots easily from the ground.

Spruce Up Container Plantings
If you love container gardening like I do, pull out any spent plants and replace them with colorful annuals. Celosia is available now, and nothing perks up a tired container like a new jolt of color.


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