University of Illinois Extension

Mid-Summer Gardening Tips

There comes a time in mid-summer when we realize that the garden is looking a little tired, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"But there are some things that can be done to perk up the garden so we can enjoy it for the whole season," said Sharon Yiesla.

Mid-summer can be a good time to see where the 'blank' spots are in the garden and fill these in with new perennials.

"Planting at this time will require extra care, due to the heat and dryness of summer, but it can be done successfully," she said. "Be sure that adequate water is supplied to summer plantings. Plants are often on sale and still in good condition at the retail outlets, so there may be a good selection of plants available."

It is essential to keep plants watered consistently during the heat of summer. On average, plants need one inch of water per week and this may need to be stepped up to one inch every five days during the heat of summer.

"Watering is the most important maintenance item, so don't skimp on it," Yiesla said. "As you water, avoid wetting foliage as this can lead to disease problems."

If you did not mulch in spring, consider doing it now. A two to three inch layer of mulch can reduce weed problems, conserve moisture, give the garden a better look, and reduce erosion.

"Many gardeners automatically reach for the fertilizer when their garden looks tired, but that may not always be a good idea," she cautioned. "Do your plants need it right now?

"Plants under drought stress need water, not fertilizer. If water is lacking, fertilizer won't help. Vegetable gardens and annual beds that are really producing may benefit from fertilizer, but perennials and woody plants usually don't need it mid-summer."

Some plants start to look tattered or tired in midsummer and may need to be rejuvenated. Try pruning them back to encourage new growth. Be sure to supply water to plants that have been pruned back, to help encourage the production of new leaves. Some perennials may even flower a second time.

Deadhead annuals to produce more flowers. Removing the old flower before it sets seeds will encourage continual bloom. Deadhead perennials to prevent seed production and strengthen the plant. Harvest vegetables regularly to keep the plants bearing.

Keep up with weeds as they can quickly outgrow desirable plants. Mulch will help control weed seedlings. Cultivate shallowly to destroy existing weeds. "These few simple steps can help keep the garden looking good all season," Yiesla said.