Jobs to Do
by Jarad Johnson
The high summer can sometimes feel a bit uninspiring to gardeners, especially those of us in hot and humid climates. I myself need to be hung out on a clothesline before I get anywhere near the front door and just stepping outside can feel like a trip to the sauna. This is the last time anyone will want to get out in the garden, but it is essential. Going early in the morning or waiting until the late afternoon are great options. You might not die of heat exposure then. Also, instead of doing everything on one day, splitting your gardening responsibilities up into chunks can really help. (Julie had some great tips not too long ago about gardening in the heat. So go look at them!) Anyway, you may think that not only do you not want to garden in the heat, but that there’s not much to do besides weeding and watering. But we have news for you. There are still plenty of things you can accomplish.
Pruning apple trees - You are supposed to prune apples in the winter, but once you do that, they will send up many new shoots during the growing season, usually right where you cut the first time. Thanks, guys (and I say guys because apples are without doubt the mansplainers of the fruit world) for making it twice as hard to get decent fruit off of you. If you have an apple tree and you want to prune it now, cut any new shoots off that you don’t want there, as well any old growth that you see that has become too dense. It is entirely possible that you will sacrifice fruit in the process, but it’s worth it to keep the tree in good form (also, if you DON’T want to sacrifice fruit, just prune in early summer. I just forgot, so that’s why I’m doing it now. The rest of you lazy gardeners who also forgot can take this as a reminder!).
Cutting back Perennials - All sorts of perennials can be cut back right now (just don’t wait too much longer) to get another set of blooms in late summer or early autumn. Some even flower before that and can be cut back again. Daisies, bee balm, catmint, roses, lavender, etc. can all be cut back now. The longer you delay a plant from setting seed, the longer it will flower. But if you want it to set seed, this would be the final time I’d cut it to get some seeds by September or October.
Deadheading - this is crucial to keep your annuals flowering (unless, again, you’d like them to set seed). I tend to put off deadheading, and that really isn’t the best approach. Plants like zinnias especially benefit from deadheading because they make more branches when you do, and that means more blooms! Just prick off the spent blooms and go about your business.
Weeding- we gardeners are a busy bunch, and weeding takes up a large portion of our time. Weeds can go crazy this time of year, and its important to stay on top of them so that its not overwhelming. Again, early morning or late evening is the best time, unless of course you’re a fan of heatstroke.
Watering - this one is a little obvious, but you really should keep an eye on your plants when it gets this hot. Watering every day is not out of the question, and some plants like hydrangeas may wilt no matter what you do. Drama queens. Just stay on top of it! Crucially, water in the morning or in the evening. Your plants will thank you. You don’t want to leave a pot with a hibiscus in it without water in full sun for two weeks and then panic and run across the yard with its wilted leaves flapping in the wind and dunk it in a pond while profusely apologizing to it. Ahem. Of course, I never did that, my dumbass “friend” did.
Taking Care of Houseplants - For me, houseplants get way too much attention in the winter and not enough in the summer. Just water them once a week and tell them you love them. I don’t why, but it works.
Planting late annuals and perennials -there is still time to get some annuals in the ground if you are so inclined! Just give them a really deep soak every day for the first week and they should be fine. You can also plant perennials now if you do the same thing as with the annual. Water is really important to plants. To everyone, really.
Enjoy your garden - Yes, it’s hot, but there’s nothing like wandering around at dusk or dawn and seeing the beauty that nature has to offer (and a lot of hard work to help her). It’s important to be in your garden, not just to have one, and wandering around with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine, depending on the day) and watching the bees and butterflies all over your plants is the real path to nirvana, in my opinion. It’s especially nice after it rains. Everything looks better when it’s wet, for some reason.
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He is a fervent gardener and is fascinated by all related topics and has spent several years writing about this passion. He has been gardening for 6 years and believes that Nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.