It's still a great time to plant! Check out our summer gardening tips >

Summer Garden Task Checklist

July 26 2022 – Kelly LaVaute, Digital Storyteller

Your first task? Enjoy your garden! Take the time to notice new growth, or first-time wildlife visitors. Listen to the birds. Watch the bees and delight in the fireflies you are supporting. All the hard work put into maintaining a garden is paying off! Take lots of pictures, and don’t forget to tag us: #GardenForWildlife.


#1 BE WATER WISE 

Be smart with watering. If you compost or add mulch to your garden, it will retain moisture better. Water early or late in the day to prevent evaporation. Conventional lawns and many ornamental exotic plants require an exorbitant amount of clean water to stay green. Choosing native plants that are adapted to regional rainfall and soil moisture content is a great way to conserve this precious resource. Reducing your lawn in favor of densely planted garden beds helps minimize runoff, and you can plant a rain garden specifically designed to collect and absorb rainwater to keep it from pouring into storm drains.

 

#2 SUMMER PLANTING

Spring has past, but summer is still a great time to plant! Many of the plants in our native plant collections are late summer and fall-bloomers, including asters, goldenrod, mistflower, frostweed, and others. Even earlier summer bloomers like milkweed, cardinal flower, and black eyed susans will continue to bloom through fall. Planting spring-blooming natives now gives you a head start on your garden for next yearyour work will be done and you can just enjoy seeing the spring blossoms! Be sure to water anything planted in summer every day (ideally in the morning) as they get established. Once established, native plants will require less water and care. Note: If heat is extreme, you can also keep your new plants in containers in a partly-shaded area until temps cool some.

 

#3 ORGANIC PEST & WEED CONTROL 

Weeds flourish in July’s heat. If you select and maintain pest-resistant plants adapted to your area – native plants generally have few pest problems and can naturally crowd out weeds. More votes for compost here too, as an annual layer of compost or mulch can deter weeds. If you’re planting to attract birds, they’ll also help with pest control. Birds eat bugs, including the ones you don’t want eating your plants, so encourage them to make a home in your garden. Find more ways to become an organic gardener. 


Talk with your neighbors about reducing pesticides as a community. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. If your community has a neighborhood association, attend meetings and speak up. If possible, engage your city and county governments to encourage alternatives to spraying—such as introducing natural predators and parasites—as part of their mosquito-control programs. From nanotechnology to genetic solutions, scientists have made incredible strides in effective, environmentally-friendly mosquito population control methods.


#4 MORE SUPPORT

By now, your plants have grown much taller and might be starting to lean. Not to worry, we all need a little support from our friends. If they are leaning to the point where stems may break, or smothering nearby plants, it’s time to stake them up. A wide variety of support cages, poles, rings, and the like are available at local garden centers.


#5 TRIMMING & DEADHEADING

Deadheading faded flowers and cutting back stems prevents plants from reproducing and can eliminate habitat for overwintering bees, caterpillars and other wildlife. To maintain tidiness and encourage new growth, here are some tips for sprucing up some of the plants in our collections:

Mid-Summer, July
Asters: if you would like more compact asters this fall, July is a good time to trim them (prior to any blooms) to about 18 inches high. This will encourage the plant to branch out and will also encourage more blooms.
 
Late Summer
- Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa): deadhead spent flowers just above new buds for continued bloom. Leave final late summer bloom seed heads for birds.
- Red Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica): Cut just above leaves to get new blooms. However, leaving spikes will help with reseeding for more bloom next year.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): cut by half at end of spring, or shear by half early summer, or shear by a third in midsummer – this will give longer bloom times.
Black Eyed Susans (Rudebeckias): cut back after bloom in summer; deadhead continually; cut low for winter after birds have had their seeds. 
 
Early Spring Bloomers
Plants like those in our Spring Bee Buffet, including Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) and Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) can be trimmed down to leafy clump after flowering. Remove or spread seedlings when small. 
 
Early Summer Bloomers
Coreopsis: deadhead continually. Cut foliage low when blooms die off. Spread or leave seed heads for birds. 
Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis): seed pods can be scattered in areas you would like to see more plants. Cut to ground after flowering.
 

3 comments

  • Kelly @ GardenForWildlife: August 11, 2022
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    @ JI – it’s not too late! You can even plant into the fall. Use our Plant Finder Quiz to find the right plants for you.

  • JPM: August 11, 2022
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    Great question – I’m eager to plant new natives into the ground, but am wary it’s early August 2022 in Henderson County, NC.

  • Jl: August 08, 2022
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    Is there anything I can plant now that it’s the beginning of August that the bees and the butterflies still like or is it too late to plant until next year for them?

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