A Few Things To Do and Not To Do Now

Annuals like portulaca and sweet potato vine like July and August heat.

Flower of sweet bay magnolia

Lilac chase tree, Vitex, flower

A mature lilac chase tree in full bloom

Summer heat is now bearing down upon us here in Birmingham. These days I garden in the early morning and late afternoon. My gardening this time of the year is more about watering,weeding, and harvesting than anything else. But here are a few tips I follow this time of the year.

  • Stop cutting back your fall flowering perennials and annuals now if you want great fall flowering as the weather cools. This is especially true for garden mums, perennial salvia, and marigolds.
  • Be sure and prune your Encore immediately after flowering. This is the best time to shape these plants as flowers set quickly for their fall bloom. Also do not forget to fertilize these azaleas as they finish their summer blooming.
  • If you summer annuals look exhausted and in poor condition, maybe the best thing to do is replace them with super heat tolerant ones. Portulaca, sweet potato vine, marigolds, lantana, and petunia like the heat and will take you through the fall in flower. If you still think you are okay, feel free to give them a haircut except angelonia which does not like to be pruned, so you need to leave it alone except for fertilizing and watering.
  • Summer flowering trees are especially nice to enjoy in the garden but also, since the leaves are mature, make excellent flowers to cut to go indoors. Lilac haste tree and sweet bay magnolia are two of my favorite to cut. If you tip prune your crepe myrtle just below the spent flower blooms now, you will generally get another flower show, only the bloom cluster will be smaller.
  • I often add a freshen up layer of mulch now to help the looks of my garden, and of course this also helps to retain moisture in the soil. If you have not fertilized your plants this year, a light application of 5-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1/4 cup for new planted shrubs and 1/2 cup for established plants is a good idea. After applying, water it into the soil well.
  • Don’t over cut your turf now even if you have a sprinkler system. I like my zoysia a bit higher to help with that beautiful lush look, and it sure cuts down on my summer mowing. No question for a great lawn watering is a must, but water longer and less often in the cool of the day or at night to be most effective.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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