Home & Garden

Garden checklist: Be an early bird in the garden

Beat the heat – with an early start. Make the most of cool mornings. Do yardwork early in the day. Keep yourself hydrated; drink water.

•  Water your garden early, too, preferably before 8 a.m. Mulch around plants to help conserve moisture, but don’t let the mulch mound around stems or trunks, in order to avoid crown rot.

•  Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are at risk of blossom-end rot. This malady is due to low levels of calcium available for fruit making, usually as a consequence of inconsistent moisture levels.

The rot starts out as a brown spot on the flower end of the fruit. As the fruit grows, the spot becomes a tough black or brown lesion. (The rest of the fruit is still edible.) The cure? Keep soil moisture as even as possible – not easy during heat waves. While fruiting, mature tomato plants need about 1 gallon of water per day. If you use a drip irrigation system, tomatoes can get by on 5 gallons a week and still produce abundant fruit. Remember: The secret is consistency.

• Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs now, then leave them alone as they start to set next year’s buds. Non-blooming hedges also can be trimmed.

• Remove spent flowers from roses and other shrubs so they will continue blooming throughout the summer into fall.

• Do your camellia or azalea leaves look yellow? That may be sign of an iron deficiency. Apply some chelated iron. Make sure to water the shrubs before applying the iron.

• It’s not too late to get a few more veggies in the ground. Plant seeds for corn, beans, okra, parsnips, pumpkin, summer and winter squash, and watermelon. Make sure to keep them moist so they’ll sprout and grow.

– Debbie Arrington