Moderate weather and moist conditions lead to garden beauty

Last week was the official start of summer as we celebrated the summer solstice. So far this year we have been sheltered from our normal hot dry summer weather but it sounds like the pattern may be changing from the moderate temperatures and regular rains to actual summer weather. We’ve finished picking the last of the strawberries in our strawberry patch and so we will have to switch back to store bought strawberries if we want more fresh strawberry shortcakes. We are enjoying an amazing harvest of apples, peaches and even apricots this year so now we are switching to fresh baked apricot pies,  peach and apple cobblers and apple turnovers. It is hard to beat the joy of fresh vegetables, berries and fruit grown in your own yard or on your own farm.  We usually only get an apricot harvest in central Oklahoma every third or forth year because of late freezes so I have been really surprised to get such a great apricot harvest this year when we got a fairly hard freeze on Easter weekend. Somehow that freeze missed the apricot flowers and we will get to enjoy fresh Oklahoma apricot pies and apricot preserves this year.

Every plant or tree is a weed somewhere and very special someplace else and every plant has certain times of year when they draw our attention and become one of our garden stars.  Right now the daylilies are covered with flowers, the magnolia trees are showing off their beautiful large white flowers and the mimosa trees are downright beautiful. A lot of people think of the mimosa as a weed tree or focus on the mess they can make after flowering but few trees are as beautiful when covered with flowers as the mimosa with their unique pink flowers.

Since we have been so moist I have been hearing a lot of questions about fungus and disease problems on lawns, roses and flowers. There are a number of good fungicides available that can help you with these rot, mold and leaf spotting issues in addition to cultural practices of trying to let these plants get drier, cleaning off bad leaves and deadheading spent or bad flowers and increasing air movement through disease challenged plants. As it has warmed up we are seeing a lot more insect activity and damage from worms, mealy bugs, aphids, thrips, scale and the like. Bagworms, grasshoppers and red spiders are just starting to make their annual appearance and are much easier to control if you attack them at first sighting instead of waiting for them to get large and well established. If you are having insect or disease problems take a sample of the problem in a jar or sack to your local nurseryman so they can identify the problem and prescribe the best cure.

The weather has been so moderate and agreeable this year that most all of our yard plants and trees are doing really well and making a very nice show. You can still enjoy a great deal of success this year from container grown plants you select and plant out now. Annuals like geraniums, marigolds, penta, zinnias, periwinkle, petunias and hundreds of others planted now will still be showy for four or more months until we get our first hard freeze. You can also plant trees, shrubs, vines, berries, ground covers and perennials to add more color to existing flowerbeds or to fill a brand new flowerbed. You can still plant your own patio or container gardens in your favorite containers or you can buy preplanted hanging baskets or containers to add color and excitement to your porch or patio. Since the daily rains are predicted to be over now you will want to mulch your flowerbed and container gardens with a bark, straw or hull natural mulch. Applying a two to three inch soil cover mulch will reduce watering, cool the soil temperature and dramatically reduce weed population in your flowerbeds. With your plants growing so fast and drinking more water at this time of year do not forget to feed them with a good water soluble fertilizer every fourth or fifth watering or with a well balanced granular or slow release fertilizer. When the rains stop, don’t forget to step up and take over the watering responsibilities and remember to really soak your plants as needed. Water more often in hanging baskets and smaller containers and once or twice a week depending on soil type and mulching in your flowerbeds.    

Most of nature and our gardens are really pretty this year so make sure to set aside some time to watch an early sunrise or a late sunset in your garden or a nearby park and enjoy time in your yard.

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