Garden Talk: 8 things to do in Michigan gardens right now

Sometimes we forget that gardening is done gradually throughout the growing season. There are several important actions to take in our gardens right now.

Let’s divide the gardens into flower gardens, vegetable gardens and our biggest garden: our lawns.

Flower gardens are filled with hungry plants right now.

There are at least two months of bright beauty left from annual flowers. This means we need to fertilize for blossoms, and fertilize sufficiently. I want to tell you to fertilize heavily, but you can fertilize too much. If you don’t know how to decide which fertilizer analysis to use, just get a liquid fertilizer for flowering plants. That type of fertilizer will have a second number that is higher than the first and third numbers. For example, a classic flower fertilizer will have an analysis of 10-20-10 or even 10-30-10. It’s the second number, phosphorus percentage, that encourages blooming.

My second to-do comes along with feeding the flowers, and that is dead-heading the flowers. Removing the dead, spent flowers will send energy to the new flower buds and encourage another round of flowers. Remember, an annual flower plant has only one goal. The plant wants to make seeds. If a flower matures and makes seeds, the plant will figure it has done its job.

In the vegetable garden, we got a break from watering for a few days. Start the watering back up, as we may have a heat wave next week.

There are also several things we should do in our vegetable gardens.

I’ve been vegetable gardening for 45 years, but I still meet gardeners that have years of experience on me. Ken Klammer, a gardener I met years ago, always gave me onion envy. He’s been gardening for 75 years. He used to show up with softball-sized onions. He has other great tips, too. He reminds us to remove the suckers on a tomato plant. A sucker is a branch that grows out of the notch between the main stem and a large branch. Pinch the sucker branches off so energy goes into the developing tomatoes. Some tomato varieties will have a lot of suckers and some won’t have any suckers.

Sweet corn will also have suckers that should definitely be removed immediately when you notice them.


Pinch the suckers in the notch between main stem and larger branches. (Photo from North Carolina State University)

Keep tomatoes and peppers evenly watered, soaking the soil at the base of the plant. It’s usually best to not get the plant wet if you can avoid it. Wet leaves through the night can help diseases grow on the plants. The even watering of the root area can help avoid blossom end rot, where the bottom of the tomato turns black and rots.


Blossom end rot can be caused by uneven watering. (photo from Michigan State Extension- Rebecca Finneran)

Here is more on blossom end rot from Michigan State University Extension.

The next vegetable gardening tip should be obvious but sometimes forgotten – pick your ripe vegetables. Peppers can stay ripe on a plant for a week or two. If you pick them, other peppers will ripen.

Now let’s go to our biggest garden – our lawn.

First, let’s do a tip on the brown lawn. Should you water your grass? Will it die if you don’t water it? Michigan’s drought periods during the grass growing season are usually not enough to kill a lawn. But beware of next week’s heat. If we get several days of 100 degree heat on an already dried up lawn, you could have some death to areas of grass. If you have the ability to water your lawn once before the coming hot spell, it might be wise.

Crabgrass is flourishing now, as it loves heat. If you have crabgrass, crabgrass isn’t your problem. Your problem is thin grass. So to end the vicious cycle of crabgrass, spray a crabgrass killer now. In the bare earth, sow some grass seed on September 1. Take care of the grass and you won’t have as bad of a crabgrass problem next year.

Also watch out for grubs starting to develop. The first sign of coming grubs is a swarm of grub beetles around your yard.


European chafer beetle will lay eggs now that turn into lawn eating grubs in September through fall. (photo from Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

The beetles will show up now and lay eggs in your grass. The eggs hatch into grubs in late August or September. The grubs will eat your lawn roots. You may not notice the dead patches of lawn this fall, and then finally notice the dead areas next spring.

Here is some guidance from Michigan State Extension on how to prevent grub damage in your lawn.