Midday Fix: Common summer garden mistakes and how to fix them from Tony Fulmer, Chalet Landscape, Nursery and Garden Center

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Tony Fulmer, Chief Horticulture Officer

Chalet Landscape, Nursery and Garden Center
3132 Lake Avenue

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Tony's Tips:

Do not wait too long to prune the spring flowering shrubs. The general rule is anything blooming before July 1 (spring) is blooming on the growth it makes in July, August, September. For example, plants like lilac, forsythia and viburnum (to name just a few) should ideally be pruned within 4 to 6 weeks after they finish spring bloom. Pruning within that timeframe should ensure bloom next spring.

We don’t think enough about fertilizing plants in containers. Surprisingly, potting soils are either peatmoss or bark-based, and therefore have little innate nutrient value. Here I would underline that even the soils that say “fertilizer added”, it’s not much. Container plants are growing in limited soil masses and are necessarily watered frequently, often daily. What little nutrient content is there initially is quickly flushed out the drainage hole. If you want beautiful container plants you need to fertilize- either with a timed release or the water solubles that are used more frequently, ideally every 2-3 weeks on plants growing in full sun. Always remember, plants in part or full shade should receive 1/2 the dosage of plants in sun.

By midsummer, containers with petunias and callibrachoas may have the “Rapunzel” effect -- lots and lots of length. The problem is usually all of the flowers are at the tips with bare stems in the container. I would caution you to wait until after the 4th of July party so you have color for that. You just give them a haircut with scissors or pruners. You can do it all at once and be colorless for a few weeks of recovery or you could do half, let that grow out and color, then the other half so you always have some color, but in the end you basically have a new plant. Don’t be afraid to edit (cut back) as the season progresses and container thugs emerge overgrowing their neighbors and changing the intended look of the pot.

If you want your tulips, daffodils, hyacinths (the large-flowered, “major” spring bulbs) to rebloom next year, there are two things you need to do. Immediately after flowering, when the flowers fade from glory, cut the bloom spike off so the plant doesn’t waste energy trying to produce seeds – just the same reason you deadhead annuals to promote rebloom. The other thing is to leave the foliage on until it is completely yellow. As long as it’s green, it’s photosynthesizing and storing food for next year’s flower crop. So, don’t cut off or remove leaves until they’re completely yellow.

If your trees and shrubs are established (in the ground for at least a year) the best general rule is: It’s better to water deeply, but infrequently. Plants are as lazy as we are. When we water lightly and frequently over time root systems become shallow (and that includes lawns, by the way). Plants with shallow root systems are much more susceptible to damage from weather extremes, insects, diseases, just stress in general.


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