Enjoying Summer Gardening

Here it is July and summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  It took quite a long time for this to happen as our spring was one of the coolest and wettest on record.  But now that summer is here, what a glorious time of year it is.  As some garden friends have told me; this is why we live here and perhaps it is because we have had such a gloomy winter that when we do see sun, it is a cause to celebrate.

Basil in a trough potSummer Herbs and Vegetables

Finally summer herbs and vegetable gardens can safely be planted.  In my own garden, I have finally planted Basil.  This is a plant that loves the heat and if planted too early will often die.  A nursery grower told me earlier this spring that she tells people not to plant Basil until July 4.  In my garden, we have two ‘trough like’ planters and that is traditionally where the Basil goes.  It is an area that receives hot sun in the afternoon and in previous years the plants have thrived here and I do not expect anything less this year.

For Basil and other herbs in containers, I use Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting SoilThis has proven to be an excellent soil and one that I have used for many years.  Just prior to setting the Basil transplants in the containers, I add an all-purpose fertilizer.  I find that generally one application of this fertilizer at planting time is usually sufficient for the season.  Some varieties of Basil will tend to reduce leaf production if the plants are allowed to flower and I always try to remove the flower stalks.  This prolongs the usefulness of the plants and we generally are harvesting leaves until cool weather arrives in the fall.  It is also a good idea to apply some slug/snail bait around new plants.

cuperus papyrus in a potBold Container Plants

Another great container plant and one we have had on our deck for the past several years is Cyperus papyrus (Giant Egyptian Papyrus).  I treat it as an annual plant in our climate as I have not had success with it surviving a winter, especially in a pot.  This is a very striking plant and always draws attention.  The tall green stems can reach 6 feet or more and the stems are topped with clusters of thread-like green parts.  We have our plants in front of a tile garden art piece and while the plant is native to Africa, it fits very well in an Asian garden.  This is a plant that requires plenty of water and an excellent mix to use is Black Gold Cocoblend Potting Soil.  This potting soil is a mix of coconut fibers (coir) and peat moss with the addition of earthworm castings and pumice.  The coconut fibers are excellent at retaining water which is ideal for a plant like this.

Veriegated BrugmansiaIn previous web articles I have mentioned Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) and what a great show of flowers these plants can provide.  For one that will provide color even without flowers, consider a variegated type.  We have two of these in urns placed in the entryway as one would enter our back garden area and with all the solid green leaves surrounding them, the variegated leaves really make the plant stand out.  Brugmansia is fast growing and likes both heat and water.  It makes good sense to use Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil to help retain water.  At this time of year, many garden centers will have Brugmansia available in 5 gallon size containers and thus you can get an instant effect.  Fertilize every ten days to two weeks as Brugmansia is also a heavy feeder.  I always add some blood meal at time of planting to encourage growth.  Be careful using blood meal when the weather is hot as it can burn if applied too heavy.  At this time of year, I would just add a light application at time of planting.

Showy Garden Flowers

If you have read my columns before, you know I am a fan of Salvia.  While my favorite is ‘Black and Blue’, I like to try new varieties.  A new one for me this year is Salvia ‘Oceania’ with sky blue flowers.  I have three plants in a pot on our deck and they have not been without flowers since they were planted in May.  The blue color of this Salvia is sure to draw attention of anyone visiting your garden.

If the soil in your vegetable garden seems to be drying out, this is an excellent time to apply Black Gold Garden Compost Blend.  Work this lightly into the soil around vegetable plants and it will improve water retention and give the garden a more finished appearance.

At this time of year with so much happening in the garden, don’t forget that one of the purposes of why we garden is to enjoy it.  Make some time to enjoy your garden and let it be a calming place.  In my own garden, one of my favorite times is early morning and to water the plants by hand.  It is usually a quite time and I enjoy the solitude which I do not mind sharing with the hummingbirds.

If you have some bare spots in your garden, check out your local garden center as most will have blooming summer flowers in pots to set out for instant gratification.  Enjoy!

About Mike Darcy

Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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