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July in the garden

Heat waves are on the way

Do plants really wilt faster during Stampede heat? Or is it just that we are away from home for longer periods, indulging in pancake breakfasts and evening rodeos? If your petunias are panting, follow these tips to keep them alive while you are out enjoying the festivities.

Pots on a south- or west-facing balcony dry out first
“Shrubblers” attached to an irrigation tube and a timer are an engineered way to solve the water problem, but what if you don’t have a tap on your balcony? Convert a large pop bottle into a self-watering system. The bottle, sitting upside down in your pot with tiny holes drilled in the lid, will slowly leak water into your pots.

Bigger gardens need bigger solutions
Again, shrubblers attached to an irrigation system will work to keep plants watered, especially if they are on a timer. But to make sure you hold the water instead of losing it to evaporation, add a layer of natural mulch. This keeps soil moist and protects the soil surface from heavy rains or pounding hail – a common scenario in July in Calgary.

Be prepared to fertilize
Freshly chipped wood right off the arborist’s truck uses up nitrogen as it breaks down. Keep the garden happy by adding a little organic fertilizer to the soil before you mulch. If fertilizer is organic, it won’t overwhelm plants with excessive nutrients. I use granulated, organic fertilizers and natural products like seed meal and kelp to feed the soil. Follow label directions for commercial fertilizers, but if using a nitrogen source like canola seed meal (from feed stores) start with a litre per 10-metre bed sprinkled on the soil surface before you add the mulch.

Trim excessive growth and remove dead flowers
You want uniform growth on shrubs and trees, so clip the wild sprouts that grow taller than the others. Trimming or “hedging” every plant to keep it uniform is overkill. Just remove the irregular, long branches as they outgrow their neighbours. Clipping off dead blooms will bring on the flowers, so that is another good maintenance measure for both soft and woody plants.

We wait so long for summer, so keeping plants happy during heat waves makes sense. By helping your plants with water, mulch and fertilizer, you’ll both sail through the season.

For more great garden information, visit www.donnabalzer.com.

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