Help your plants keep their cool – and save water, too. The secret? Mulch!
A layer of insulating organic mulch (not rocks) will keep your plants hydrated longer and squeeze the most out of what moisture they can get from the soil. For inexpensive mulch, use several sheets of newspaper (yet another use for The Bee), covered with an inch of compost or bark. Organic materials tend to stay cooler than black plastic, weed cloth or rock mulches. More benefits: Organic mulch keeps weeds down and add nutrients to the soil.
▪ During hot weather in July and August, water early in the morning – preferably before 8 a.m. That allows the water to soak in instead of evaporate away. If you notice water running off your lawn or flower beds, cut your sprinkler time into chunks that allow the water time to soak into the soil. For example, instead of 10 consecutive minutes, run the sprinklers for two five-minute intervals (spaced at least an hour apart).
▪ If plants (or their fruit) look sunburned, give them some shade. Bell peppers are especially sensitive. Erect an umbrella or suspend shade cloth over sensitive plants during the hottest, sunniest days. They still need some sun, just not the hottest rays of the afternoon.
▪ It’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.
▪ Plant sunflowers from seed and watch them reach for the sky. Bees especially love these late-season blooms.
▪ Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking keeps plants producing.
▪ On tomato plants, pick off caterpillars and be on the lookout for other pests. Although tomatoes love heat, don’t let the vines get over stressed. Water them two to three times a week. A mature, producing tomato plant needs about 5 gallons a week.
▪ Feed vegetable plants bone meal or other fertilizers high in phosphate to stimulate more blooms and fruiting. Make sure to water the plants before feeding.
▪ Pinch off blooms from basil so the plants will grow more leaves.
▪ Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.