Activity and restraint in the garden


Most gardeners have a fairly long ?to-do? list for their gardens in June, and certainly many tasks contribute to the garden?s health and beauty. However, what we don?t do is as important.

One area where restraint should rule is fertilizing. Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers may benefit from a feeding as they begin to fruit, and roses will need to be fed if you did not use a slow-release fertilizer in the spring. Annuals can use fertilizer on an alternate-week basis.

Most vegetables, however, will do just fine in compost-rich soil with no additional fertilizer. Similarly, shrubs and established perennials need no feeding.

For lawns, it is especially important to exercise restraint. Summer feeding can burn lawns, make them more thirsty, and promote growth of weeds. So no fertilizer in summer is the best policy for turf.

Another area where restraint matters is addressing problems caused by insects or diseases. Just spraying without diagnosing the problem can do a lot of harm, including killing beneficial insects, and is very unlikely to do any good.

After carefully diagnosing a problem, timing any controls used is essential. Chemical controls are designed to manage insects at a specific stage, such as the larval stage. Applying an insecticide at the wrong time will do no good.

Given Iowa?s high humidity in summer, various fungal diseases are possible. Treating these can be difficult. If you have black spot on roses and powdery mildew on phlox every year, the most successful strategy will be to replace those plants with disease-resistant varieties. Be sure to put any diseased plants in the trash, not the compost pile.

While restraint is important, there are certainly many valuable tasks for gardeners right now. Perhaps the most essential is controlling weeds before they take over! When you are weeding, try always to get those roots.

As you weed, note areas where mulch is thin. It is certainly not too late to purchase and spread more, ideally just after a thorough weeding. More thorough mulching now will likely pay off in less weeding and watering later.