Summer is insect time!
Care for warm-season grass (Zoysia, Centipede, Bermuda, and others) that suffered over the winter. Now is a good time to plant new sod in damaged areas. Warm-season grasses vary in their fertilizer needs, so call for a Lawn Maintenance Calendar on the specific type of grass you have.
This is not the time for planting or fertilizing fescue! Wait till the fall.
TREES, SHRUBS & ORNAMENTALS
Prune climbing roses after they bloom, then fertilize them to stimulate new growth. This summer’s growth carries next year’s buds, so keep the plants growing vigorously! Train long shoots horizontally or downward to stimulate more branching.
Dig and divide bulbs that have become crowded and stopped blooming well: daffodils, crocus, Dutch iris, etc. As soon as foliage dies down, carefully dig up the clumps of bulbs. Divide and replant bulbs immediately, or store them in a cool, dry place for planting this fall. (Note: Tulips and Hyacinths generally don’t perennialize in our area; our springs and winters are too warm. If these bulbs didn’t bloom well this year, dig and discard them.)
Give plants room to grow. Pull or transplant excess seedlings of marigold, cosmos, zinnias, etc. Growing plants need room to develop, and five healthy plants will look better than fifty undernourished ones.
Remove faded flowers and Pinch growing tips of ornamentals as you make the rounds of your garden. Many plants (both annuals and perennials) will stop blooming once they’ve started to set seed, so “deadheading” the spent flowers will prolong the bloom period. Pinching the growing tips will encourage compact, sturdy, branched growth with lots of blooms.
Protect plants from dehydration. Plants lose a lot of water in hot weather. Try to plant or transplant on overcast days or late in the afternoon, and keep newly-planted ornamentals well watered for the first several days. Soak established plants’ roots at least once a week, and use a 2-3″ layer of mulch to conserve water and keep roots cool.
VEGETABLES & FRUITS
Watch your squash plants for sudden wilting, then check near the base of the plant for a small hole and a mass of greenish-yellow excrement. Slitting open the stem may reveal the villain: a fat white caterpillar! Squash vine borers usually kill home-garden squash plants, and control is difficult once the caterpillars are inside the plant. You may be able to save the plant by removing the caterpillar, then covering the injured area of the vine with moist soil to encourage rooting. Call for a publication on this destructive native pest.
WILDLIFE & INSECTS
Japanese Beetles hold their family reunion at your house in June and July. Control is difficult; as soon as you dispatch a batch, reinforcements arrive from your neighbor’s yard. Traps and hand-picking are not very effective. But don’t worry: by the end of July the beetles will be gone, and plants will have new foliage. Japanese Beetle damage rarely kills healthy plants.
Control bagworms on plants such as juniper, arborvitae and Leyland cypress. Bagworms are relatively easy to control with insecticides or Bt at this time of year, when they are small and vulnerable. Inspect susceptible plants for tiny worms. Later in the summer, the worms will be protected from pesticides inside their bags, which must then be removed by hand. 25 Keep mites under control. Spider mites are common pests of junipers and many other ornamental plants. They cause tiny yellowish spots on leaves as they suck sap with their needlelike mouth parts. They’re not insects, but almost-microscopic spider-like creatures with eight legs. Call your Cooperative Extension Center for information on controlling mites.
Tropical natives make excellent additions to our gardens in the summer, with colorful foliage, bright flowers, and heat-loving constitutions. They can’t survive our winters, but we can try over-wintering our favorites indoors. Impatiens, Coleus, Lantana and Mandevilla are familiar to us. Ornamental peppers and Jerusalem cherries are other heat-lovers. More exotic tropicals, such as Alternanthera (Joseph’s Coat), Plectranthus (with lovely gray felty leaves), and Acalypha (Copper Plant), are becoming available. Visit the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at NCSU to see first-hand how tropicals can spice up our summer gardens.
Keep outdoor potted plants watered; in the heat they lose a lot of moisture. If you’re going on vacation, set up a watering system on a timer, or ask a friend to check your plants regularly. It’s very sad to come home to dehydrated or dead plants.