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Summer Gardening Tips: Fertilization & Pest Control

By: Rachel Elmakiss

The summer heat is here and we’re all eager to have our homes and gardens full of beautiful, heat-tolerant color. Now that you’ve planted your new annualsperennials, and other heat-loving plants, how do you keep them happy, blooming, and pest-free all summer long? Here are some tips that can help:


• The perfect time to fertilize anything that you’ve planted at your home is from spring through to the beginning of fall. Most blooming annuals are especially heavy feeders and will want to be regularly fertilized once every two weeks to once a month. There are a variety of fertilizers out there so how do you know which one will work best for what you and your plants need

• Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, or “The Big Three” main components of most fertilizers, are what you want to look at first. Nitrogen prompts green foliage, phosphorus promotes blooms, and potassium strengthens and encourages growth of roots.

• What is it that you’re fertilizing? Some plants only like to be fertilized once a year and very lightly (Japanese Maples), whereas others like frequent fertilizing (blooming annuals or vegetables). Research your plants or come in and ask to check and see what your plant prefers.

• Is it in the ground or in a pot/raised bed? For in-ground use we recommend that you use a granular, slow-release fertilizer, and for potted plants we recommend a water soluble or liquid fertilizer.

• Did you just buy it or does the potting soil you use contain fertilizer? If you’ve recently purchased the plant it may have recently been fertilized either by the growers it came from or the nursery. Give your plants a two week break before fertilizing it for the first time after you purchase it to make sure you don’t burn your plants.

• Organic or non-organic? Depending on personal preference as well as what you’re growing, you might want to use an organic fertilizer instead of a regular chemical fertilizer. We recommend using organic products like Espoma’s “Tone” series or organic fertilome products, especially for edible gardens.

Keep an eye out for pests and diseases:

This time of year it feels like there are pests everywhere eating everything and it can feel hopeless. But don’t fret, there are several options of pesticides and insecticides that you can use to help your gardens stay happy, healthy, and pest-free for the summer. Here’s what to look for to identify if you have pests and what to use to get rid of them:

• Look closely at the leaves of your plants. Some pests like spider mites and thrips like to hide underneath the leaves. Others, like mealy bugs or aphids, can appear anywhere on the plant.

• Some pests can be hard to spot, so if you can’t see any, but your plant is declining, look for signs of pests. For example, spider mites sometimes leave webbing or little white dust-like dots on the bottoms of leaves and, often, leaves will yellow or become pale. Leaf-rollers will aptly leave the leaves rolled up and unable to unfurl. Some pests like scale insects leave damage behind which makes the plant prone to powdery mildew or sooty molds. Others, like aphids, will leave a sticky substance behind on the surface of the leaves. The hardest to distinguish are bites in the leaves and, oftentimes, it depends on what plant is being eaten as to what may be eating it.

• Determining what pest deterrent to use depends on the plant and the pest. There are systemic drenches (good for large trees or shrubs), granular (good for busy gardeners, but not available for all types of products), or sprays (which can usually be found in spray bottles, concentrates that you mix, or hose-attachment sprayers). It’s best to research your pest and plant or consult a local garden expert. It’s always important to thoroughly read the instructions and warnings.

• Lastly, like with fertilizers, you can choose between organic or non-organic. Again, it will depend either on personal preference or on what you are spraying (edible plants). It’s also important to note that with insecticides and pesticides, some non-organic products will be harmful to local pollinators.

With each change of the seasons comes a new challenge for gardeners to face, from snow in the winter, to pests and diseases in the spring. Hopefully these pointers help you and your garden achieve your full and colorful potential this summer. And as always, feel free to reach out to our knowledgeable staff here at Cantrell Gardens with any questions you may have. Call us today to learn more about about how we can help you keep your garden healthy and beautiful all summer long!

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