July 2013
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Hibiscus Need Lots of Sun

Sometimes friends ask me why their hibiscus isn’t blooming. "It was loaded with blooms and buds when I bought it," they said. The answer is often simple - how much sun does it get? This is a tropical plant that loves full sun, at least eight hours a day. Sun and regular fertilizer (either a timed-release like Osmocote or regular liquid feedings of soluble plant food), and an occasional watering are all it needs. In the right place, this is an easy, carefree plant.

 
  When large trees come down, transform the trunks into chairs to enjoy for several seasons.

Give Old Trunks a New Life

When beloved, big trees come down, either by accident or intention, one way to hold on to at least a part of them is to make the trunks into chairs! Take a look at these clever carvings made into garden seating that will last for several years. After that, I guess it will be rotted or bug-eaten enough to go into the compost pile and back to the garden in a different form!

No Rain? Don’t Mow!

If you’re not getting any rain, it’s best to leave your lawn alone. The taller the grass, the deeper the roots. For folks with an automatic watering system, you, too, can at least cut back on water use by turning back the dial to encourage deep rooting. When the weather breaks and the lawn turns green again, you can resume mowing, but not all at once! The rule of thumb to prevent shocking grass is to never cut more than one-third of the leaf blade at one time. So trim it down a bit at a time over a period of two or three weeks.

Daylilies Like a Little Clean Up

Keep up the grooming of your daylilies this time of year. The plants are beautiful, but once they fade and the stalks start turning yellow, they appreciate a little clean up. Clip off the old stalks. This also helps the rebloomers such as Stella put on a good second show. It won’t hurt to water and fertilize the rebloomers, either. They respond with a better second and third show.

 
This life-size, outdoor chessboard is sure to invite a lot of fun.  

Outdoor Chess

When I saw this life-size chessboard and handmade game pieces at the Raleigh Botanic Garden in Raleigh, N.C., it struck me as a fun item to share with readers, especially folks who have a big enough property for outdoor games. This board is big enough to invite whole teams of friends in a friendly match on a day when it’s too warm to do much else. Use your creativity to fashion the playing pieces and carpentry skills to build the board. Chairs and lemonade would be a good accompaniment.

Eggplant and Squash Don’t Sit Well

Even if you don’t need all the eggplant or squash that prolific plants are producing, they want to be harvested. These plants will stop producing if you let the old fruit just sit on the plant. When on vacation, get a friend or neighbor to come over and pick from your garden so it will continue producing when you return. Squash usually succumbs to squash vine borer in the summer, but well-tended eggplant will last until the fall. Ichiban types are most prolific. One year I harvested more than 80 from only two plants. Eggplant should still be dark and shiny when you pick them. If they start fading or turning yellow, they are way overripe. Overripe squash and zucchini just get bigger and tougher to the point where they taste bad and are full of big seeds. Of course, one way to use extra zucchini is to make and freeze loaves of zucchini bread.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.