Zinnias add color to the garden while attracting beneficial insects.

Midsummer checklist for a happier garden

Published: Saturday, Jul. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5CALIFORNIA LIFE

Heat takes its toll. By late July, many gardens look a little ragged or just plain tired. It's no surprise. When temperatures hit triple digits, plants cook.

Rejuvenate your garden with a midsummer makeover. It will add to your outdoor enjoyment for weeks to come. A little effort now will pay off with a beautiful autumn garden, too, as well as extend summer bloom.

The editors of Organic Gardening magazine liken garden makeovers to a beauty blitz. Start with a face-lift for flower beds, pretty the garden up with some "cosmetics," then maintain the look.

Tackle makeovers in the morning, before the weather turns hot. Spread the work out over several mornings if necessary. Always stay well-hydrated and use sunscreen. Wear gloves, a hat and solid-toed shoes.

The goal is to catch up on the basics, regain control, then update. Managing editor Therese Ciesinski and senior editor Doug Hall offer this advice for getting it done:

START WITH THE FACE-LIFT

• Mind basics: Weeding, removing spent flowers and grooming – all those things that got put off. If you missed the opportunity earlier, mulch now.

• Sharpen bed lines: Using a sharp spade or an edger, this super simple technique gives a garden professional polish.

• Clear paths: Pull volunteer seedlings that have popped up through mulch or gravel pathways. Cut back hydrangeas and other shrubs that are blocking neighboring plants from sunlight. Creating an obvious walkway can help make a garden more inviting.


THE COSMETICS

• Get color-coordinated: Evaluate your flowers. What blooms when? Remove colors that clash. One plant with blue-red flowers can throw off the balance in a bed filled with oranges and reds.

• Contain enthusiasm: Swap out container plantings, especially spring annuals that have lost luster. Replace them with bright summer hues. Try tropicals or succulents for a hot-weather look. Or plant yellows, oranges and bronzes for a warm fall palette.

• Texture matters: Locate spots that look monochromatic (or boring) and fill them in with a new note of color or a different leaf texture.

• Think beyond plants: Buy or sew new cushions for patio furniture. Invest in an outdoor rug. Clean the deck.


THE MAINTENANCE

• Divide and conquer: Put the right plants in the right place. Take the opportunity to identify what has gotten too big, and plan to move or divide it in the fall.

• Water: If transplanting, water is key to success, especially as temperatures go up in August. Don't let new plants stress out. Even those considered drought-tolerant need frequent irrigation until established.

• Plan ahead: Think about what you want your garden to look like this fall and beyond. Fall months also are prime time for transplanting perennials, shrubs and trees and planting spring bulbs. Start preparation now.

– Debbie Arrington

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