High summer

Richmond flowers

I always think of this time of year as high summer. This is when we get the warmest temperatures, the highest humidity and the greatest amount of daylight — all the things that our plants need to grow and flourish.

July is traditionally the month when our gardens are at their best. Perennials are blooming, each one trying to outdo the other. It is no coincidence that community garden walks are held in the month of July.

The number one garden task for July is water your garden, especially your containers. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a little rain overnight was sufficient to keep your plants healthy. Damp flowers and foliage are not an indication of adequate water. The canopy of flowers acts as an umbrella and actually keeps the soil dry therefore preventing water from getting to the roots of the plant. At this point in the gardening season, the root ball of the plant is quickly filling the container. There is very little room to store water for more than a day or two so water, water, water.

To keep your annuals looking beautiful through the next two months of summer they need water-soluble fertilizer. This product is available at any garden center. I like to put a little fertilizer in each of my watering cans so my containers get a little food each day. If fertilized, the flowers in your containers will continue blooming right into fall.

Annuals need their fading blooms removed. The job of an annual is to set seed. If you allow them to go to seed they will have accomplished their mission and will stop blooming. The best tool to groom your plants is a small set of scissors. I carry mine with me while I garden. Annuals that have become long and leggy will benefit from a little pruning.

This time of year our pansies are looking pretty sad. Pansies are a spring flower and by July they need to be composted. You cannot bring them back. They are finished for this year. Some but not all hanging baskets that looked beautiful for Mother’s Day may need to be composted too.

These flowers were raised to be at their peak in April and May and now, 3 months later, are overcrowded and past their prime.

We wait all winter, not to mention fall and spring for this time of year.

Water, fertilize and groom your plants. We have a couple of months to go and I don’t want to miss a day with my flowers.

Rebecca Norton Ryan is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener and member of the Warren Garden Club.