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Preparing for Summer

Calibrachoa also known as "Nightshade"
Calibrachoa also known as "Nightshade"

I love this time of year; the garden is growing and the sun is bright and warm. There is tremendous activity all around as the birds sing and their fledglings take flight, preparing for a lifetime of gliding through the sky. This is also a time of preparation in the garden for managing the summer heat, while keeping the garden flourishing and bountiful.


As the temperature rises, the cool season plants diminish as they set seed and die. This applies to the winter weeds as well as early crops in the garden. The cool season vegetables planted in March typically do not thrive in the heat of the summer. To fill the voids created by the bolted lettuce, spinach and radishes, along with the Brassica’s such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collards, sow beans, squash, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, sweet potatoes, melons, eggplant or even pumpkins! If space is limited, consider growing cucumbers and squash with a sturdy vine support and remember to stake the tomato plants, another vining fruit. Staking improves air circulation around the leaves and prevents the ripening fruit from contacting the soil surface; both actions aid in reducing diseases.




In the flower garden, pansies that thrived in cool weather wane as the temperature rises. Replace the pansies with your favorite annual bedding plant to provide color all season long. Lantana is a favorite of mine, along with Callibrachoa -- both known for their continuous blooms, heat resistance and drought tolerance. I also enjoy a good Marigold for its bright colors and ability to ward off insects and nematodes. This is also a good time to divide and relocate daffodils. I wait until the foliage turns yellow before digging, dividing and replanting the bulbs where they will provide bursts of yellow next spring.




At Maymont, we mulch the gardens, be they ornamental or vegetable. In Jack’s Vegetable Garden, the Master Gardener volunteers spread straw on the soil surface right after planting. Mulch generously applied early in the season reduces weeds all season long, buffers the soil temperature from the hot sun and retains soil moisture. In the vegetable garden, a barrier of mulch prevents soil borne diseases from splashing up on the ripening fruits and vegetables. Straw is used, but ground up leaves can be used as well. Don’t forget that straw is used for bedding and is golden tan in color, while hay is a livestock feed and is green in color. Some gardeners who practice row gardening place a thick layer of newspaper in the aisles before mulching to keep the area weed free. Newspaper enriches the soil as it breaks down and is tilled in at the end of the season. Remember to leave some soil exposed for our native bees who are ground nesters or use the clay soil in their nests elsewhere.



Now is the time to prune forsythia, azaleas and other spring blooming shrubs. Early blooming trees and shrubs form their flower buds on the new growth of each season in the late summer. This is the perfect time to make those reducing or shaping pruning cuts without greatly impacting next year’s display. Our native Fothergilla gardenii or Bottlebrush Plant, is another shrub that blooms in the spring that should be pruned now as well. If you are interested in propagating these plants, early June is typically the perfect time to do so. To learn more about propagating plants watch the next show on May 28th at 8pm. See you then and thanks for watching!


Happy Gardening!


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