Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2009
Regional Report

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Don't cover your tree trunks with "Volcano Mulch!"

Midsummer Garden Tasks

As I make my daily walks around my neighborhood, it makes me feel so good to see the efforts everyone is making to beautify their homes and landscapes, not to mention growing food. I thought I'd offer a few tips and reminders for keeping landscapes healthy as you begin to sit back and enjoy the summer.

Watch Watering
If you were inspired to plant new trees and shrubs in your yard, be sure to give them an inch of water every week. Mother Nature often cooperates with rain, but keep an eye on the moisture levels as the summer heats up.

Use Plenty of Mulch
Be sure to add mulch to your plantings. If you can bring a mulch circle out from a tree trunk to at least its drip line, the tree will grow stronger. And, one thing I see frequently is "volcano" mulch. Mulch should not be piled against the trunk because it can cause disease. Spread mulch about 3 to 4 inches deep and pull it back a few inches from the trunk.

Remove Nursery Tags
Another frequent observation is fluttering tags left on trees and shrubs. These nursery tags are made of materials that don't decompose easily, and if left on can eventually choke off the movement of water and sugars through a branch or trunk. If you want to remember the name of the plant, take off the tag and any strings and stick it in a garden journal or on the refrigerator where it will always be accessible. You plants will thank you!

Finish Pruning
Now that it's midsummer, finish all of your pruning. There's still time to snip junipers and yews, to prune limbs off of larger trees, and to shape flowering shrubs. Every time you make a pruning cut, it stimulates new growth. New growth produced after about the middle of July may not have enough time to harden off or toughen up enough to withstand winter and may die back.

Stop Fertilizing
The middle of July is also the time to stop fertilizing woody plants and perennial flowers for the same reason. You should still continue fertilizing annuals and vegetables, though, since they need the extra boost and die for winter anyway.

Discard Diseased Plants
If you have any diseased plants in the vegetable or annual garden, be sure to pull them and discard them away from the garden -- send them off to the city compost site or put them in your own working compost pile. Diseased tissue will be rendered harmless by hot composting, and won't be around to let spores fly back to your healthy plants.

The most important task I'm going to give you is to sit back and enjoy. Take the time to just wander, at dawn, at dusk and anytime in between. It'll make you healthy and happy!

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