Jeannie Manis, Sauk County Master Gardeners Association (SCMGA) President
“Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.” — Lou Erickson
This last week’s higher temps and humidity made me think we skipped summer and jumped right to August! I tried as best I could to time my plantings between the bouts of rain and the times of high heat. I wasn’t able to completely avoid the high heat as I spent one afternoon out in my newly installed cutting garden beds planting 50 dahlia bulbs and 30 ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental lilies. I ran out of steam before I could plant the nine rose bushes. I’m still working on getting all my annuals planted and there are some vegetables I need to get planted as well. Now is the time of year when I have way more garden tasks compared to the hours I have to spend in the garden – especially when the heat and rain do not cooperate with my schedule. I am sure many of you feel the same way.
For all your plants, it is very important to watch for insects and disease and to water them if they are dry. Insects to keep on an eye out for include the flea beetle, cabbage moth, striped and spotted cucumber beetle, potato leafhopper, Colorado potato beetle and cutworm. Using floating row covers can help. Later this month, Japanese beetles will start to their annual visit to our gardens. To learn more about managing these insects, visit https://walworth.extension.wisc.edu/files/2014/04/Vegetable-Pest-Management.pdf. Keep a close watch on your hanging baskets and containers as they will dry out much faster. Simply insert your finger in each of your pots and check to see if they need water. If they are moist, leave them be. If they are dry, give them a drink. Water them until water runs out the bottom of the container if possible. For those with roses or peonies, destroy any diseases foliage/flowers as soon as you discover them.
If you had any large clumps of daffodils that didn’t bloom, dig and divide them now. Fertilize perennial beds and spring-blooming bulbs to feed perennials that are actively growing and provide the nutrients bulbs need to form next year’s flowers. Continue pinching back chrysanthemums to encourage bushiness. Stop around the last week of June. You should have finished up most of your dividing of your perennials by now. I do my best to divide in spring but I get behind most years, so I still divide and move my plants if needed throughout early summer. I just accept that they might not look awesome this year. Our gardening friend, Kent, had a situation that resulting in having to move a Hosta he found being smothered by the neighboring bleeding heart. I was the lucky recipient of this Hosta and we’re hoping it’s an offshoot of his nearby large blue Hosta. The color isn’t as blue as his other Hosta that were near it, but I’m hoping it’s because it was being smothered rather than reverting back to the original mother plant color. Blue or not, I am still excited to get another Hosta for my shade garden. In turn, I dug a couple Brussel sprouts plants for him to transplant and enjoy in his garden that I had planted too close together. They will be much happier with more space to spread out and I was always taught to share.
In the vegetable garden, plant and stake your tomato plants. If your plant is spindly, bury it in a trench up to its first set of true leaves. Toss a couple Tums® in the hole/trench to help prevent blossom-end rot (cause by a lack of calcium), place a layer of newspaper, and then mulch or straw around your tomato plants to help retain moisture and prevent soil-borne diseases to splash up on the leaves when watering. Tomatoes (and peppers) also need consistent water to help prevent blossom-end rot. Make sure your tomato plants get plenty of air flow to help prevent future fungal airborne disease by pruning off leaves as needed. It is now warm enough to plant peppers, sweet potatoes and eggplants outdoors. Continue to plant successive crops of beans, beets, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. You can also start seeds for Brussel sprouts to transplant into the garden in mid-July.
If you have all your chores done, here’s a fun thing to try with peonies. For me, it seems that as soon as my peonies start to bloom beautifully, it rains and knocks all the petals off before I can cut a bouquet. To enjoy peony blooms weeks or months later, cut the flowers when the buds are just starting to show some color and feel like a soft marshmallow. Then strip the leaves off and wrap the entire stem and bud in clear plastic wrap, sealing the ends to minimize moisture loss. Lay them flat on the shelf in your refrigerator. When you want to enjoy them, take them out, unwrap them, give the stem a fresh cut and place them in tepid water in a cool location. It should bloom for about a week once it is rehydrated. That’s it. I’m lucky we have a spare frig in the basement, so I have the perfect location to store mine – right on top of the beer.
This week’s article is written by Jeannie Manis, a Wisconsin Certified Sauk County Master Gardener Volunteer. If you have any gardening questions, please contact the Extension Sauk County by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension Sauk County office at 608-355-3250.