Wild ThingsÖ
Midsummer Chores
By Karen Vizzi
   Although the wild garden is generally maintenance-free, there are several mid-summer chores that should be done to keep things in shape and to continue to make a suitable habitat for critters.
   The first critter to keep in mind is you. At this time of year, garden chores should be done in the morning or early evening when temperatures are cool. It is also the time of day when the garden looks its best, so itís easier to enjoy the tasks at hand. Be sure to drink plenty of water while working and donít overdo it.
   It is important to understand that a flowering plantís whole mission in life is to reproduce itself. The plant produces blooms, attracts pollinators, sets seed and the job is done. If annual, they die and if perennial they become dormant. So to keep a plant blooming, it is essential to regularly clip off dead flowers that are trying to set seed. In this process of deadheading, you are telling the plant that it must continue to push out flowers in order to re-produce. Annuals will continue to flower all summer if properly deadheaded and given an occasional dose of fertilizer. However, once a perennial plant has exhausted its ability to flower, you will want to cut back the entire plant. This will prompt the plant to push brand new foliage from its base. The plant will look better and be healthier. Some perennials may give you a second flush of blooms, but most will not. However, as the summer progresses be sure to leave the dead flowers of late bloomers like sunflowers, coneflowers and thistles standing. These will be important food sources for migrating songbirds.
   Weeding is not something I generally do in the wild garden, unless a particular weed is compromising the health of another important plant. Midsummer is a good time to conduct a brief weed inventory to be sure this isnít happening. It is much easier to do major weeding after a good rainfall or after a soaking with the hose. Roots come out of wet soil much easier than dry, baked earth. This also limits the amount of damage to the roots of desirable plants that may be close to the weeds.
   Finally, this is also the time of year when it is tempting to reach for the insecticide bottle. NEVER, ever use pesticide or insecticide in the wild garden!! Butterflies and bumblebees are insects! Your kids and your pets will be grateful too.
Bird Brainers: Donít weed out those thistles! Goldfinches are late nesters and use the down to build their nests.
Butterfly Bullets: There may be a lull in butterfly activity from time to timeÖcheck your plants for caterpillar activity when this happens.
Plant Pointers: Annuals like petunias and lobelia will benefit from a shearing back right now. Donít fretÖthey will grow back fuller and with just as many blooms within a week or two.

 
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