By this time in the growing season, your spring seedlings are getting established and, perhaps, even beginning to bloom. Your fall planted biennials and hardy annuals have matured and are providing an abundance of blooms. Hopefully, you set yourself up well in the winter and spring and are continuing to maintain your garden or flower beds. What can you do to keep that momentum going?
1) Water your plants. With warmer days, water becomes even more important to plants. Many farms lay down drip irrigation to water flower beds. The drip tape lets out small drops of water onto the bed that allows the roots of the plant to get hydrated without wasting a lot of water or getting water on the leaves. There are whole systems that irrigate farm flower beds.
On our small farm, we choose not to use drip tape and rely on frequent rainfall in our area or water by hand with a hose and a spray nozzle. I water new seedlings well to help them get established and then spend time each morning watering if there is no rain in the forecast. This is something I am able to do because our farm is so small.
2) Fertilize. Make sure to fertilize your seedlings and plants. We use diluted fish fertilizer on our seedlings and in the field once a week. We also spray our field plants with the fermented weed tea we have been brewing this spring along with worm extract. We fertilize our roses with alfalfa pellets.
3) Weed. It is not just the flowers you planted that are growing but all the weeds, as well. I *try* to spend time each day tackling a different section of the farm, filling at least one bucket with weeds. Before you know it, you will get each section weed free only to start all over again as more weeds have sprouted.
4) Mulch. This practice helps cut down on the above chore. I have found that wood chips in the pathways and straw or compost on beds are great mulches to keep the areas weed-free. In the fall, leaves are a great mulch to cover flower beds with.
5) Compost. Keep composting kitchen waste and garden debris (unless it is diseased) and turning that compost pile. Use the coarser compost as mulch and incorporate the finer compost into your flower beds as you plant new seedlings.
6) Stake. Some flowers like dahlias require a more robust support system. If you have one or two dahlias, you can tie each plant to individual stakes. However, with rows of dahlias, it is best to use stakes and twine to create a grid that will hold the plants upright.
7) Net. Some plants need netting, especially in the case of strong winds or rain. You can use a plastic netting staked at the four corners of the bed. Another alternative is cattle panel cut at the corners and bent in the shape of a box that is placed over the bed. The second option is plastic-free and reuseable.
8) Harvest. When flowers are blooming it is important to continue harvesting the flowers each day or they can go to seed. The best time to harvest flowers is in the morning after the plant has stored up energy overnight.
9) Start seeds. Yes, your seed starting days are not over yet. Keep starting seeds for succession planting. Even though we have a really small farm, I am trying to continue to start sunflower seeds each week so that I can have a continuous succession all summer and fall. In July, I will begin starting my biennial and hardy annual seeds that I want to plant out in the early fall to get a head start before winter comes. It's hard to believe that we are even thinking about winter, but summer is when we have to start seeds to be prepared for next spring.
How is your summer garden coming along? What are you growing in your garden this year?