Here Comes Summer In The Garden!

After what we have experienced this past year we deserve a break and an awesome summer

Its July in Saskatchewan and by now if you have happily toiled all spring in your garden, you will be sitting back with a beverage and enjoying the fruits of your labor.  After what we have experienced this past year we deserve a break and an awesome summer.  We also deserve a great garden and that involves a bit of work – ok, maybe more than a bit of work but satisfying and rewarding work just the same!  Here are a few tips to help your garden keep looking its best all summer and into the fall.

Journal your 2021 gardening experiences.  The triumphs, the failures and the in between.  All of this is great information for next year.  If possible, press some of the flowers and plants you really liked and include them in the journal.  Don’t forget to keep the flower identification tags!



Water regularly.  It is best to water in the morning paying special attention to hanging baskets, container plantings and newly planted shrubs and trees.  Anything in a container needs to be checked daily for water needs.  Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered deeply once or sometimes twice a week, depending on the weather.  Whenever possible water at the base of your plants to prevent any diseases from spreading.

Do not rely on your sprinkler system to water newly planted trees and shrubs unless you can put them on their own zone.  Established shallow-rooted lawns and mature evergreens take up most of the water leaving little for any root system further down. 

Lawns need to be watered about 1 inch per week.  Put out a tuna/salmon tin and check how long it takes to reach the 1 inch level and note the time accordingly.  Keep your lawn mower height at 2 to 3 inches as this will reduce lawn soil evaporation. 

Tomatoes in containers need to be checked daily for water – they prefer to be moist but not soggy.  Water is especially needed when they are fruiting.  Water at the base of the plant keeping the leaves dry.  This keeps any lurking fungal diseases at bay.


Compost and composting go an extremely long way in providing your plants with some good nutrients and conditions the soil.   Never compost any plants that have been sprayed with herbicides or are diseased.   If you do compost, hopefully early in the spring you mixed the compost into all your soil recipes.  Every part of your garden will benefit from using compost on a regular basis.

I also like to use water soluble fertilizers for my container plantings and hanging baskets. 

Tomato food is particularly needed if you raise tomatoes in containers.  They are heavy feeders and will soon use up the nutrients in a compost enriched soil and will need an additional boost.  Sweet peas are also heavy feeders so regular fertilization with an all-purpose flowering plant food is a must.

Whatever fertilizer you use, remember that less is more.  Over fertilization will only lead to problems. Follow container directions or go with half strength applications. 

Lawn fertilization is best left early in the summer (June) and fall.  If your lawn is looking yellow/brown; wilting and going into drought stress, do not fertilize. 

Established perennials, trees and shrubs will benefit from a spring fertilization but really do not need fertilizer in summer.

Refrain from fertilizing from mid-August on.  Plants will be beginning to toughen up for the fall and winter season and do not need new growth getting in the way.

A wise woman named Lois Hole once said that in the spring and summer she put a pinch of fertilizer in the watering can every time she watered her plants.   Try it and see!  It certainly worked for Lois Hole!

General Maintenance Tips

Regularly dead head your annual flowering plants to prevent the plants from going to seed and instead produce new flowers.  A bonus is that quite a few annual plants bred in the last few years require no deadheading.  They are self cleaning. 

A popular annual plant in recent years has been coleus of which there are many varieties.  They are grown for their beautiful leaf colors so remove any flower spikes that appear. 

Cut sweet pea flowers regularly and they will reward you with many more blooms.  Again, the goal is not to let them go to seed. 

Summer is a good time to go out and purchase and replace any worn-out garden tools.  They will be ready and waiting in the shed for next year!  Something that needs painting is always staring at you and organization of your garden shed may be needed!

Keep water fountains, bird baths and hummingbird feeders clean.

Cut back delphiniums after the first flush of blooms to encourage new growth and flowers.

Leave a few stalks with leaves on your rhubarb plants.  They need these leaves to photosynthesize and build up food reserves for next year’s growth. 

Mulch dry flower beds to prevent evaporation.  Compost is a good mulch as it not only prevents evaporation; it provides plant nutrients that percolate down through the soil to the any tree and shrub root systems below.  Keep any mulch type you use away from the crown or trunk of the plant.   

As you water, dampen the sides of your terracotta pots.  This helps the plant roots to stay cool and damp. In spring before planting up your terra cotta pots soak them in water for half an hour before adding soil.  This helps to avoid soil water wicking action by the porous clay away from newly planted roots.

If you are enlarging your strawberry patch, this is the time to fasten down any strawberry runners so they can root and become new plants.  Landscape fabric pins are especially useful for this task. 

Now is a good time to divide bearded iris.  Classic signs that a clump of iris needs dividing? Flowering is greatly reduced or non-existent and the iris rhizomes are crowded and popping out of the soil at the base of the plants.

Keep any tall plants such as delphiniums, dahlias, sweet peas and clematis well supported and tied to their supports.   Use only soft material such as strips of old nylons as ties; never wire. 

Cut back the first finished flush of flowers in hanging baskets.  This will encourage new leaf growth and new blooms.  Do fertilize after doing this. 

Pick, dry and/or freeze herbs to use now or in the winter.

Pinch out tomato side shoots each week.

To avoid rot and disease make sure squash and pumpkin fruit have a support underneath to avoid contact with the soil.

Deadhead shrub roses regularly unless you want them to produce rose hips.  Check on the variety you are growing – some varieties are self-cleaning.

As you work around and enjoy your garden, always be on the lookout for pests or the beginning of fungal or bacterial disease. Get the kids involved in hunting for slugs which just love being under rocks to avoid the heat of the day.   Observe the severity of the problem.  If there are only a couple of leaves affected, prune them off or in the case of insects and slugs, drop them into a bucket of soapy water.   Focus on prevention and keeping up the health of your plants.  Most healthy plants can tolerate a pest attack and bounce back quite well.

As you may have noticed I have left the “w” word for last.  Yes, weeding……..  Weeds compete with your garden plants for nutrients and water.  Weeding is a necessary chore that no one really enjoys but it does benefit your garden.   I am not a fan of herbicides and prefer to weed the old school way.  As you weed, throw some compost on the weeded areas.  This helps cover up newly exposed weed seeds from the light and provides your plants with important nutrients.

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