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Gardening with Jack: Summer is Coming

Like it or not, summer is on the way and we must adapt what we grow in the garden to the hot, humid conditions that will soon be upon us.

Our flowering shrubs – from roses to oleander – should receive a seasonal application of fertilizer to keep them happy. Healthy well-fed plants resist diseases and insect predation but we often forget feed our flowering shrubs because they seem to do well however badly we treat them.

Our palm trees – from coconut to fish tail – should receive a dressing of palm special that contains greater amounts of magnesium and manganese that palms require to stay healthy and green. If you have been feeding your palms with regular 6-6-6 fertilizer you should change to palm special.

Citrus and fruit trees should be fertilized every season, once every three months. I find that fertilizer stakes are the most convenient form by which to feed fruit trees as the fertilizer supply is consistent while granular fertilizer can be washed through the soil too quickly.

All of the above – flowering shrubs, palms and fruit trees – will benefit from an application of Sequestrene 138, a chelated iron made for heavily alkaline soils. It is expensive but as iron is a trace element only a little is needed for each application.

Most of the annuals we grow during the winter months – petunias and impatiens for example – will not take summer heat. Those annuals that are both tough and pretty are vinca (Sailor’s Button), tithonia (Mexican Sunflower), cosmos, marigolds and zinnias. Gaillardia is a perennial that blooms in its first season.

If you have annuals in pots you can encourage them to last into early summer by giving them a fertilizer soak. Prepare a dose of Miracle-Gro for flowers according to the instructions on the package in a bowl large enough to take your flower pots and hanging baskets. Do each one at a time and add Miracle-Gro at the top with a plastic cup until all the soil is soaked. Place a soaked pot on a wire grill over another bowl and collect the drain off while soaking your next pot. This tonic for your annuals like petunias and impatiens can also be applied to your potted peppers and herbs. For these use regular Miracle-Gro.

Before disposing of your dying petunia plants pick off the seed capsules and store them in a container in the refrigerator until next October. All petunias are complex hybrids and you never know what you will get from saved seed. The surprises are always pleasant.

Many of our culinary herbs are of Mediterranean provenance and almost certainly will not last the summer in full sun. Most gardeners grow their favourite herbs in containers and these can be moved to locations where the herbs receive morning and evening sun but are shaded at the hottest times of the day. If your herbs are in garden soil you may wish to transfer some to containers and shade them for the duration.

Mulberry season is with us but will only last a short while. You may wish to make a habit of making a jar or two of jam when suitable fruits become ripe. The old method of making jams and jellies was painstaking and dozens of jars were filled to last through a year until the next harvest came. Making a couple of jars at a time and storing them in the refrigerator is easy and allows us to enjoy mulberries, grumichamas, sour oranges, guavas, seagrapes and many other fruits long after their season is over.

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