July is “in the books,” as they say. Sure flew by, didn’t it? We had an unbelievable number of hot weather days, meaning more than 90 degrees. I don’t know where our average highs of 85 were as we didn’t see many of those.
Telling the temperature by cricket chirps is a fun thing to do on a warm summer night. Just count the number of chirps in 14 seconds and then add 40 to that number to get the current temperature. Example: 30 chirps counted and then added to 40 makes 70. In other words, 70 degrees. Amazing what nature can do!
A lot of us grow petunias and by this time of the summer, most are getting leggy. To give them a new lease on life, just cut each stem back by half or so, depending on how long it is. Then give the plant a nice dose of fertilizer which is high in the middle number. Doing this will keep those plants blooming right up until the first hard frost.
Speaking of fertilizer, it’s that time of year already. Do not fertilize anything other than annuals … no trees, shrubs, perennials, etc. Doing so would tell them to put out some nice new growth, which unfortunately won’t harden off in time for the cold weather this fall. None of us want to think about that, but it’s a fact of life.
One of the nastiest critters I’ve ever run across goes by the name of tiger slug. Wish we didn’t have them here, but we do. These are so ugly, even their mothers probably avoid them! Ugh. If you do run across one in your yard, be sure to put it out of its misery so it can’t lay a bunch of eggs. Be careful with those “slug baits,” especially if you have a dog, as most of them are toxic to them. To protect your favorite plant, surround it with a ribbon of something dry and scratchy such as sharp gravel. Slugs won’t crawl across something like that.
Many people are confused about “morning glories.” They are not all the same. The “nice” one is what we plant as an annual vine. It will grow 8 or 10 feet tall and produce gorgeous large single flowers that bloom in the morning and close up after that. The first hard frost in fall will kill these completely. The “nasty” ones are actually field bindweed and are a completely different plant. These have a different shaped leaf, the flowers are very small, range from pale pink to white and bloom all day. These have a very strong root system and can cover a large area in a short time. If you notice any of these beginning to pop up in your yard, go after it before it spreads. The best killers are either a brush killer or glysophate, aka Roundup. Cut each vine and immediately spray or brush some of the weed killer onto the stub of the vine. These weeds are very difficult to just pull or dig out as any piece left underground will grow back. Good luck!
For continuous blooms, keep deadheading those spent flowers. On petunias, be sure to pinch far enough back to get the calyx … that tiny whorl of leaves just above the flower. If left on, it will grow into a seed pod. Not a good thing as any annual that develops seed will realize that it has completed its life cycle and will stop blooming.
As we’re tempted to stay in the house where it’s cool, remember: The best thing to put in your garden is your shadow.
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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column appears in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October.