By Barb Kozlowski, Master Gardener
What a summer we have had so far – hot, dry, and minimal rain. This type of weather has certainly raised havoc with our gardens. Except for a few new plantings and my vegetable garden , most of my yard has had to rely on Mother Nature to take care of it. Many of my flowering perennials have bloomed, but the flowers were short lived due to the lack of sufficient rainfall. Most of them are draught resistant and perhaps next season will be a little more normal in the rainfall department.
Watering container planting is a no-brainer and these plantings should be checked daily. A good soaking in the early morning is usually sufficient for a short time, but I advise checking these containers daily for moisture content. Some potted plants require almost daily watering during the hot, dry weather. Petunias are exceptional water consumers and will sometimes need water twice a day. If this does occur, repotting may be the answer. Moving plants to larger containers with additional moisture-retaining potting soil will help to keep your flowers looking spectacular.
Another way to keep your garden looking fresh is to deadhead any spent flowers. Deadheading encourages new growth to keep your plant flowering longer. If possible and if you love to do it, deadhead spent flowers daily or at least every two weeks. The exception is for those perennials with seedpods you want to develop like the coneflower.
If you have a vegetable garden, harvesting mature fruit is important to keep your plants producing additional fruit. Zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes seem to have ripened fruit ready for harvesting almost daily.
Garden pests like Japanese beetles, aphids, mites and whiteflies still need to be watched for in order to control any infestations. Powdery mildew is common among asters, bee balm, phlox and dahlias, to name a few. It can start on the denser foliage at the base of the plant where the airflow is minimal. Thin the interior growth to improve airflow and spray all the foliage and other susceptible plants with a solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of ultrafine horticultural oil mixed in a gallon of water. When the affected plants have finished blooming, cut them back to the ground to promote clean, healthy new growth. Destroy the prunings, and then spray the clump and surrounding soil with a fungicide for mildew.
Many garden centers are reducing their inventory of perennials, but check the hardiness zone and condition of the plants before you purchase. Plants should look healthy and disease and pest free. You certainly don’t want to bring any strangers into your healthy garden.
Fresh veggies abound at this time of the year and a simple way to enjoy them is grilling them at the same time as you grill your meat. I love to grill just about every veggie I eat and, with a little practice, even grilling Romaine lettuce is a snap. On Fridays, stop by the Ellicottville Farmers Market for a wonderful selection of produce and remember Wednesdays in the Arboretum.
When you light your grill, place the corn in the husk, silk removed (if desired), and cook slowly while your grill reaches the temperature to cook your meat, rotating so corn cooks evenly. The husks will char and some of the kernels, too. When the husks are fully dried and crispy, the corn will be done. Remove husks and brush with melted butter seasoned with pepper (no salt required) or any other flavoring you desire. I sometimes add lime juice and garlic to my butter. Serve immediately. Remove leftover kernels from cob and use in a salad with tomatoes, onions, peppers and Feta cheese.