Summer can be a tough time for many plants. For most people across the US, summer often brings extreme weather in terms of heat, drought, humidity, heavy rain, winds, and hail. Summer also brings insect damage, and disease. Even though the summer does often mean beautiful blooms, fruit, and foliage, it does come with its challenges. There are 5 tips you can do to help your plants cope with the conditions and resist disease throughout the summer.
- Choose what you plant carefully. Know what grows well in your area and has adapted well to your specific conditions. You can do this by a quick search on the internet, or calling your local University Extension Service and talking to a local expert. What grows in the south may not grow as well in the north and vice versa. Lupines are one example of a perennial that do well in the north but not as well in the south. You can stretch limits by choosing cultivars of plants that have been bred to be better performers in more extreme climates. For example, ‘Phenomenal’ Lavender has been bred to be a hardier variety of lavender that does well in colder northern climates. Choosing local native plants is also a good idea.
- Invest in smarter irrigation. With traditional sprinkler systems, a lot of moisture is lost as it flies through the air and lands uselessly on exposed surfaces. This doesn’t help your garden beds- in fact it can actually exasperate disease problems by giving the germs a place to grow on wet leaves and stems. Instead, use soaker hoses and drip irrigation in garden beds. Irrigating with hoses and tubes places much needed water in the summer right where it needs to go- in the ground to the roots. This keeps foliage dry, keeps roots cool and hydrated, and won’t be wasteful. Use a timer for irrigation too- and have it active only in the early mornings and evenings.
- This might sound counter-intuitive, but during the hottest summer days, hold back on fertilizer. Fertilizing encourages new growth, which demands more water. The fresh new growth is also attractive to insect damage and disease. Instead, wait until the fall to fertilize, and fertilize again in the spring.
- Group your pots closer together on really hot days. This will actually help slow down evaporation. On really hot days, any pots in the sun should be moved into groups in the shade to wait out the heat. Take down hanging pots on really hot days, or warm and dry days with a lot of wind.
- Mulch! One of the best things you can do at any time for your plants, but especially in the heat of the summer, is to give them a blanket that actually keeps them cool and moist. Mulch them! Refresh old tired mulch to a depth of 3-4 inches, but make sure to keep the mulch from touching stems and trunks as best you can. You can mulch right over soaker hoses and drip irrigation.