General Gardening Tips
Remember that the Seattle area may go several months in the summer without significant rainfall (and that a few drops that wet the surface don’t really count). Even if the weather is cloudy for days at a time, plants will still need water.
Mulch to conserve soil moisture; use drip irrigation, soaker hoses, and tree/shrub watering bags (on newly-planted or vulnerable plants) to use minimal water to maximal effect. Also, keep weeds pulled—weeds suck up water your other plants need.
Birds and beneficial insects may also start hurting for water. Consider installing a birdbath or water bowl. If yours does not have ornamentation that breaks the surface, putting in decorative pebbles as mini “islands” will make it more useful for butterflies and bees. (Note: change the water daily to avoid harboring mosquito larvae. If that’s not possible or not convenient, use a sprinkling of Bt Mosquito Dunks Bits, which are toxic to mosquitoes but not to pets, wildlife, birds, fish, bees, or butterflies.)
Vegetable and Herb Gardening Tips
Water and fertilize your heat-lovers! Heat + light = maximum growth rate = maximum need for nutrients and water. Fertilize weekly with a good liquid organic fertilizer such as Dr. Earth Liquid Solution to keep your heat-lovers (tomatoes, basil, eggplants, pepper, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins) in their prime of growth and production.
Water and shade your wilters! Lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, and other veggies that were happy being planted in spring’s cooler weather may suffer now as much from heat and glare as from lack of water. Planting tall plants to the west of their bed or putting up a shade cloth can give them relief from hot afternoon sun.
Protect tomatoes from blossom-end rot and cracking by keeping the soil evenly moist. Avoid cycles of drought and drench, which can disrupt their ability to take up nutrients. If you did not use garden lime in your tomato beds/pots in the spring, apply foliar calcium spray or liquid calcium soil drench now.
Sow buckwheat (summer cover crop) in beds that won’t be used until fall.
It’s time to start planting your fall and winter vegetables! Sow seeds for: beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, daikon, endive, escarole, mustard greens, onions, parsley root, parsnips, radicchio, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. Click here for Sky’s Winter Vegetable Gardening information sheet. You may need to use shade cloth to protect newly-seeded beds.
You can still plant heat-loving vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, and early-ripening tomatoes and peppers into early July. Annuals herbs such as basil and cilantro can be planted throughout the month. Perennial herbs such as bay, rosemary, and thyme can be planted any time of year, and summer is a lovely time to enjoy them. Newly-planted transplants may need protection from the sun at first and will need extra water while they are getting established.
Berry & Fruit Gardening Tips
Remember that most fruit trees and berries need regular water to bear and ripen their fruit properly. Drought can cause fruit drop or malformation. Consider installing watering bags for trees and soaker hoses or drip systems for blueberries and other berry bushes. Try not to use sprinklers on or around fruit trees, especially stone fruits (cherries, plums, etc.)—overhead watering can spread disease spores.
Monitor fruit trees and berries for insect and disease problems; consult a Sky Nursery associate for recommendations if you spot an issue.
Net cherry trees and blueberry bushes to protect your harvest.
When larger fruit (apples, pears, quinces, peaches, plums) is under a nickel size, thin out the smaller fruit to improve cropping consistency and fruit ripening.
Time for summer pruning! Cherries and apricots: do ALL pruning in July when no rain is expected. Most other fruit trees will benefit from a judicious thinning of shoots and the removal of any waterspouts or suckers. Prune to prune to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration in your canopy. Summer is also the time to prune if you’re trying to keep your tree smaller. Watch Dave Wilson Nursery’s video on summer pruning.
Ornamental Gardening Tips
Water trees, shrubs, and perennial plants deeply once a week (more often if necessary, especially with first-year plants) rather than watering shallowly every day. Your plants will develop deeper root systems that will be more tolerant of the occasional dry spell.
Watch for aphids and insects (see Sky for ladybugs and other controls).
Groom and fertilize perennials to encourage continued bloom.
Fertilize bedding plants and annuals regularly. Deadhead to encourage continued bloom. Protect new transplants from heat and glare with shade cloth if need be.
Add new perennials to beds for a longer blooming season.
Look for larger pots of dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, and other annuals for bursts of color.
Planter and Hanging Basket Tips
Water! Remember that a container can dry out in less than a day in hot or windy weather.
Fertilize heavy blooming annuals in containers or baskets every two weeks. Deadhead regularly to encourage continued bloom.
Lawn Care Tips
If you let your grass go dormant for the summer, leave your lawn alone as much as possible until fall rains green it up again. Do not mow or treat for weeds; walk on it as little as possible. (If your lawn is used heavily while it is dormant, you may need to do reseeding/renovation in the fall.)
If you are keeping your lawn watered through the summer, reduce your water needs by setting your mowing height higher and by grasscycling (leaving the clippings on the lawn). Improving your soil with extra compost can also promote deeper root growth and increased drought resistance. Do not fertilize with a fast-release (chemical) fertilizer if drought is anticipated! Fast-release fertilizer could encourage a growth spurt that would leave your turf susceptible to damage if watering is restricted. If you have a problem with water running off your turf rather than soaking in, apply Perc-o-late to help the water penetrate better.
If weeds are a problem, try pulling or spot-treating rather than using a weed & feed product. Remember that a well-fed lawn can outgrow most weed problems.
Water Gardening Tips
Plants and fish both need nutrition if they’re going to put on their best show for you—feed them! Give fish smaller amounts of good summer fish food several times a day rather than all at one time. Each time, give enough food for your fish to finish in about five minutes. Feed your pond plants with aquatic plant food tablets; water lilies in particular should be fed once a month, other water plants every 4-6 weeks. Keeping debris skimmed from your pond will help to reduce algae. Check your filter pads and clean them gently with pond water when necessary.
Don’t breed mosquitoes! If you have any still or standing water, Sky carries organic Bt-based mosquito dunks and bits that are completely safe for birds, fish, pets, and wildlife. (They are even safe for insects other than mosquitoes.)