Tips for Busy Gardeners

Taking a proactive approach helps busy gardeners do it all, and some of these tips will allow you to take a vacation while leaving your garden in fine shape.

Deny weed seeds the cushy life by denying them space to thrive.

Deny weed seeds the cushy life by denying them space to thrive.

courtesy Preen

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Even for those who love to garden, summer holds many attractions that can lure one away from necessary garden chores. Double that for indifferent gardeners. But a healthy, well-tended weed-free garden is actually an easier garden to maintain. To help busy gardeners cut to the chase, here’s a quick list of proactive measures that pay-off by minimizing work or maximizing results over the long run.

Feed, Then Don’t – Just as too much water can damage a garden, so can too much fertilizer. For most plants, fertilizer is desirable when they are growing most rapidly in spring and early summer.  As the days grow warmer, especially if conditions are dry, fertilizer is not as useful. So monitor conditions and only feed in summer if it is cool and moist. In most cases, especially with woody perennials such as roses, you want to stop fertilizing in late summer and fall. Feeding encourages new growth, which can be damaged when weather turns nippy.

Stop Weeds Before They Start – To win the war on weeds, focus on their seeds. It’s logical: if just one weed typically produces 15,000 or more seeds per season, then each weed you eliminate reduces future weeds exponentially. First, pull existing weeds before they go to seed. Second, stop the millions of dormant weed seeds lurking in garden soil from sprouting. If you didn’t mulch in spring, consider mulching now or in fall.  Mulch denies weed seeds the light they need to germinate. It also helps soil retain moisture and keeps soil temperatures even.  For maximum weed prevention, apply a sprinkling of Preen garden weed preventer atop mulch to further target weed seeds in soil or mulch, plus those newly carried in by the wind, birds or animals. Preen prevents weed seeds from rooting. Spring is the optimal time to apply Preen but it’s never too late to start.  Different weed seeds germinate at different times, all season long.  If you applied a pre-emergent in spring to hit early sprouters, apply a second application in mid-season to knock out seeds that germinate in late summer and fall. Remember, however, that Preen prevents new weeds from growing. It doesn’t kill established weeds.  Apply weed preventers after weeding. Because, ironically, the act of pulling weeds often exposes dormant weed seeds buried in the soil, encouraging them to sprout!

No Lifebuoys For Bad Bugs – When voracious insects invade, many gardeners despair.  Often the best offense against bad bugs like Japanese beetles and others is to harvest them before they harvest your garden. When they first appear and are few, it’s easy to pick them off by hand and squish them (effective but icky) or knock them into a jar of soapy water where they can’t swim or fly away (works great, morbidly satisfying). The trick is to eliminate as many as possible before they decimate your plants, or worse, lay eggs that will multiply the problem in future. If the pest infestation worsens, consider spraying plants with an insecticidal soap.

Taking a few pro-active steps in the garden now and then pays off down the road in time and effort saved, thus freeing up busy gardeners to enjoy summer and its blooming benefits more fully.


Travel Tips for Gardeners Gone Fishin’ 

While you’re enjoying that well deserved summer vacation, remember that your garden will be home working hard. Here are some simple tips from to keep your garden going while you hang the “Gone Fishin’” sign on the front gate.

Give it a Good Soak – Before heading off, give flower and vegetable gardens a last good long soak. Happily, depending on how long you’re gone and the behavior of local weather, further watering may not be a worry. Established annuals can usually last for ten days without supplemental water. Most perennials can make it through two weeks and trees and shrubs won’t feel the pinch for about a month. Lawns are the camels of the garden. A healthy lawn can go four to six weeks without extra water.

Protect Container Plantings – Container plants usually need more water, more often, than in-ground plantings. For prized container plantings, you’ll probably want to ask a friend for help. Make it easy for them by grouping containers in a protected area with indirect sun, but access to rainfall.  It’s a snap to water all in one spot and harder to miss a pot, thus lessening stress on plants and on your watering chum.

Do Pinch Backs Now – Before you leave, check containers for leggy plants that would benefit from a good hard pinch back to refresh their late season growth and appearance.  By pinching them now, your plants can rebound from that freshly-shorn ‘bad haircut look’ while you’re not around.

Apply a Pre-emergent Garden Weed Preventer – Most people associate pre-emergent garden weed preventers such as Preen with early spring, but mid-summer is another smart time to apply it. A second application atop mulch or soil will stop weed seeds in the soil and mulch from sprouting while you’re away and well into the fall.  Remember that mulch and Preen prevent new weeds from happening. They don’t kill existing weeds.

Don’t Feed Before you Leave – Don’t fertilize plants before leaving. Slower growth is what you want while you are away, especially as you move towards fall.

Harvest Produce – Harvest as much produce as possible before you leave. If you can’t take it with you, or just have too much, donate to a food pantry or share with friends or family. If you’re going to be gone for more than two weeks, consider having someone visit the vegetable garden to harvest any produce. If you stop harvesting vegetables, some stop producing. 

For more garden tips, visit the Preen website.