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"Love, It’s What Makes a Garden (sorry Subaru)," by the Whistling Gardener

There are few things that give me as much pleasure as being in my garden surrounded by a well fed and properly watered landscape. Plants that are well-cared-for not only shine and exhibit brighter colors of flowers, but they also exude a certain energy that lifts up those around them.
Delphinium. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

There are few things that give me as much pleasure as being in my garden surrounded by a well fed and properly watered landscape.

Plants that are well-cared-for not only shine and exhibit brighter colors of flowers, but they also exude a certain energy that lifts up those around them.

It is much like being in the company of a person in love or an expecting mother. These individuals radiate out a feeling of health and well-being and believe it or not, it is the same with plants. Just like our friends and pets, if we love them, they will love us back. 

July is the month to show our gardens just how much we really do love them by performing some of the following chores…

PLANTING:  You know my mantra: there is always room for one more plant.” Even now and through the ghastly heat wave we had, it is safe to plant as long as we provide plenty of water. Growers have lots of new crops ready and are shipping them weekly, so plan a trip to the garden center every couple of weeks to see what’s new. Your plants will appreciate some new friends.

FEEDING:  No one would think of starving their pets, so why on earth do gardeners fail to feed their plants? This is so critical for annuals, perennials, vegetables, and newly planted shrubs and trees. When it comes to annuals, especially if they are in containers, it is hard to beat a soluble fertilizer, like “Miracle-Gro” or “Sea Grow” (a similar product with seaweed extract added).

For plants in the ground, I still prefer the organics because they have microbes and humic acid added to them - both of which improve the overall long-term health of the soil. Show your garden some love by feeding it!

PRUNING:  Early July is really the last time to do any significant pruning until the fall, so don’t miss the opportunity to trim up the hedges, thin out the fruit trees, remove the old blossoms from the rhodies, and cut back any bloomed-out perennials from spring. Keep your annuals deadheaded and fertilized and they will love you back by continuing to bloom all summer long.

STAKING:  I like to think that if I plant enough plants close together, they will hold each other up, but it doesn’t always work. All it takes is one windy and wet day to knock everything flat on the ground. You can buy all sorts of contraptions to help hold them up, but they don’t work if you leave them in the garden shed. Get them installed before the calamity strikes. Supporting our plants is just another example of showing our love.

INSECTS AND DISEASES:  Watch for damage and only spray when you know what you are dealing with. Most insect issues can be tolerated without any serious consequences. Slugs can get enormous by July and eat an incredible amount of foliage in one evening. Spray a little water over the garden around 8:00 pm and the slugs will magically appear, at which time you can use whatever preferred technique you like to do them in. There are also repellents you can use to help keep them away from your plants. 

For mildew on shrubs and trees, the best strategy is to prune out diseased branches and fertilize. For roses, perennials, annuals and veggies, it is best to be proactive and apply a fungicide as a preventative. Controlling insects and diseases is a great way to convey our steadfast love too.

WATERING:  Don’t be shy with the water. I will reveal my secrets next week, but for now, just remember that no matter how much your water bill increases, it will always pale in comparison to the cost of replacing dead plants. Don’t let water become the limiting factor in the success of your garden.

POLLINATORS:  Attracting bees and other pollinators into our gardens continues to be a top priority for all of us nature lovers. Don’t worry too much about what kinds of flowering plants you need, just make sure you have lots of flowers in your garden and the pollinators will come. We can all work together to help these valuable creatures by using pesticides sparingly and wisely and incorporating into our gardens a wide diversity of plants that bloom when pollinators are active. 

If you stay on top of these chores, your plants will love you for it and you should be able to enjoy your garden for the next two months with minimum effort. Love has always been a two-way street - the more we love our gardens, the more they will love us back.

Get out in the yard this month and show your plants some love.  And of course, stay safe and keep on gardening!

Sunnyside’s next free class will be a pre-recorded class, "Fun with Succulents," that will be available on our website (www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes) and our YouTube channel on Saturday, July 10, 2021, at 10:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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