Someone has said that July is more of June, only worse. It seems that all we do in July is water and much watering could be cut back by mulching. It doesn’t take the place of watering but it does conserve the water in the soil. Mulching helps to keep the nitrates in the soil. Did you know that nitrates cannot be formed in the soil if the temperature goes to over 115 degrees. Under the summer sun the soil often goes over the maximum for long periods. Moisture is the great temperature regulator and the mulch acts as an umbrella and an insulated seal. It keeps the soil cool and moist. It must be light to admit air but those air spaces keep out the excess heat. That’s the lesson in moisture and mulching for the day.
This is a good time for propagating by layering. Verbenas, Pinks, Pachysandra, Ivy, Climbing Roses, Shrubs, in fact, all the things with reaching runners will probably take root if fastened down on soft earth with wire and covered with good soil.
You can still divide Bearded Iris, especially if they have been in the same place for over three years. It’s a good idea to replace some of the older ones with the new varieties. There are some beautiful specimens on the market now.
Check to see what’s new in flowering shrubs and bulbs. I understand that a new lilac blooms in spring and again in fall. Wouldn’t that be nice? Also there is a miniature Buddlea (Butterfly Bush) which can even be used in flower boxes and hanging baskets. What next?
If your ferns look a little peaked about now, give them some tea. They thrive in soil that is high in acid. Watering them often, and we must, washes a lot of the acidity out of the soil which we can replace by old fashioned tea. Just drop a tea bag in two quarts of water, let it set for a while and pour on the ferns. If you have any leftover tea, unless it has been doctored with sugar, use that. I always save the tea bags and tuck them into the soil around the ferns.
Continue to pick faded flowers and seed pods from annuals such as marigolds, cosmos, snapdragons and zinnias. You may need to spray some annuals with a fungicide, especially zinnias.
Be sure to check your houseplants you set outside for the summer. They may need daily watering during these hot days. The ones in clay pots might need watering twice a day. It’s a good idea to bury the clay pots in soil to keep them cool.
Your summer lily bulbs can be helped with a light application of 5-10-10 fertilizer. As the flowers fade, cut off the tops to prevent seeds from forming.
Please remember your cats and dogs suffer rom fleas and ticks duing the summer and they are dependant on you for relief. Take them to the vet for sprays and/or pills and bathe them regularly. On second thought, maybe you’d better not bathe the cat. I only tried it once!
My grandmother liked to start roses under a fruit jar in summr. That’s Ma who had the green thumb. It’s a simple method and works wonders with miniature roses. The old-fashioneds are also easy to root under the jars. First, enrich the soil where you want to start a rose. Dig down about a foot and add compost and some old manure. Take cuttings by pulling a stem downwards leaving a heel. That’s where the roots will start. Leave the cuttings in water for several days. Roll the stems about six inches from the bottom in rooting compound if you have it. Make an impression in the soil, fill it with water and after the water has soaked in, put the stem in the hole being careful not to rub off the rooting compound. Put about 6 or 8 inches of the stem under the soil. Press the soil together and place a half gallon or quart fruit jar over it. Place some rocks or bricks around it to keep dogs and whatever from knocking the jar off. If all goes well, in spring you will have a fine little rose. Leave the jar on next spring until all danger of frost is over. You will need to wait a year to move the little rose because the roots are very delicate. It’s a good idea to start about three of each variety to be sure to get one to live. You will need to keep this little bed of roses damp all summer. Ma said that her mother-lin-law, she with the really green thumb, would split an old half rotten potato and put the stem into the potato before placing in the ground, The potato would rot furnishing the little heel with moisture. I tried it and all I got was potato sprouts all around the jar. Some readers have told me that it works for them.
(Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 and you can order my book by sending $12. (tax and shipping paid) to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.)