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Gardening Tips: Midsummer in the garden

I have finally managed a few days to get caught up on my gardening tasks, have you? This is the perfect time for a bit of pruning, weeding and fertilizing so the gardens look good right through to fall.

I have finally managed a few days to get caught up on my gardening tasks, have you?

This is the perfect time for a bit of pruning, weeding and fertilizing so the gardens look good right through to fall.

Last week I talked about basket and container care. This article will cover midsummer work in the yard. However, just before going on to that topic, I want to bring to your attention a few things that have popped up since the last article. 

I am hearing quite a bit about problems with some of the baskets and planters this season. After looking at a distressed basket of wave petunias, I see that Powdery Mildew is a major problem. Leaves looked poor, yellowed and had a grayish-white film that can be rubbed off.

I've mentioned this disease in an earlier article with reference to mildew on squash leaves and tall garden phlox. Unfortunately the weather pattern of cool nights has kept this mildew flourishing!

Just this week I found some Powdery Mildew starting on the white begonias in one of my shade planters.

Try to keep foliage dry heading into the evening hours; thin out foliage if possible for better air circulation; remove affected leaves as soon as you see them; and treat with the fungicide sulphur to control the spread of mildew spores.

In terms of pest to watch out for right now, I have seen Mountain Ash sawfly active in trees. I have also had a report of Pear Slugs on fruit tree leaves.

Those slimy little critters feed on the under-side of leaves. I am still on the lookout for the last of the lily beetle larvae and continuing my ongoing battle with ants in the vegetable garden and one of my big planters.

Keep a close eye out for garden pests and use the appropriate control while the problem is manageable.

Now that we are at the end of July, it's time for the last application of food for perennial and shrub beds.

You can broadcast a good quality granular fertilizer throughout the beds and water well. This extra nutrient will keep them healthy and blooming right into fall.

Feeding after the beginning of August is not recommended as we want plants to slow down active growth and toughen up for winter.

We saw quite a bit of winter damage this spring on reliably hardy shrubs that where safely tucked under a deep layer of insulating snow.

I'm remembering back to last November when the first snowfall came early and stayed. I think quite a few of those damaged shrubs hadn't had a chance to harden off properly.

The extreme cold in mid winter then caused the damage. 

For the same reason, now is the perfect time to do a round of pruning on hedges, trees  and flowering that are finished blooming (except early blooming shrubs and lilacs that have already set flower buds for next season.)

Pruning stimulates new growth. You want that new growth to have a chance to harden off before winter.

Although forsythia is one of the earliest shrubs to bloom, it can be tidied up right now if needed as it blooms on two year old wood.

This is also the time of year that weeds will go to seed, spreading farther into your gardens. Do a good look through the gardens and cultivate out those stragglers.

You will be glad you made the effort when there are fewer weeds next season!

If you are enjoying some summer holidays at home, this is also the perfect time to walk through the yard with a notebook to make a list of tasks for fall. You may be focused on summer fun and entertaining but a few notes made now while gardens at their peak will help you be better organized for later. 

If you are spending your holidays doing some landscaping, just remember to do the planting part on an overcast day. If that's not possible, plant in early morning or evening so there is less stress on both you and the plants!

(PHOTO PROVIDED: Powdery mildew on petunia leaves.)