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

We sometimes forget that gardening is done gradually throughout the growing season. There are several important actions to take in our gardens at this time.

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

Flower gardens are full of hungry plants right now.

There are at least two months of bright beauty left from the annual flowers. That means we have to fertilize for the flowers, and fertilize enough. I want to tell you to fertilize heavily, but you can over-fertilize. If you don’t know how to decide which fertilizer analysis to use, just get a liquid flower plant fertilizer. This type of fertilizer will have a second number greater 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 is the second number, the percentage of phosphorus, which promotes flowering.

My second task is to feed the flowers, that is, to top the flowers. Removing dead and faded flowers will send energy to new flower buds and encourage another round of blooms. Remember that an annual flowering plant has only one purpose. The plant wants to make seeds. If a flower matures and produces seeds, the plant will think it has done its job.

In the vegetable garden, we took a break from watering for a few days. Start the watering again, because we could have a heat wave next week.

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

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

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

Pinch the suction cups in the notch between the main stem and the large branches. (Photo by North Carolina State University)

Keep tomatoes and peppers watered evenly, soaking the soil at the base of the plant. It is generally best not to wet the plant if you can avoid it. Leaves that are wet overnight can help plant diseases develop. Watering the root zone evenly can help avoid blossom end rot, where the bottom of the tomato turns black and rots.


Blossom end rot can be caused by irregular watering. (photo by Michigan State Extension – Rebecca Finneran)

Here’s more on blossom-end rot from Michigan State University Extension.

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

Now let’s move on to our biggest garden – our lawn.

Let’s do a brown lawn trick first. Should you water your lawn? Will it die if you don’t water it? Michigan’s dry spells during grass growing season are usually not enough to kill a lawn. But watch out for the heat next week. If we get several days of 100 degree heat on an already parched lawn, you might get a bit of a kill on grassy areas. If you have the opportunity to water your lawn once before the next heat wave, it might be a good idea.

Crabgrass is thriving now, as it loves heat. If you have crabgrass, crabgrass is not your problem. Your problem is fine grass. So, to end the crabgrass cycle, spray a crabgrass killer now. In bare ground, sow grass seed on September 1. Take care of the grass and you won’t have such a bad crabgrass problem next year.

Also pay attention to the larvae that are beginning to develop. The first sign of larvae to come is a swarm of beetles around your garden.


The European beetle will now lay eggs which will develop into lawn-eating larvae from September through fall. (photo by Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

Beetles will now spawn and lay eggs in your grass. The eggs hatch into larvae in late August or September. The larvae will eat the roots of your lawn. You may not notice lawn dead spots this fall, and then you will finally notice dead spots next spring.

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

About Marco C. Nichols

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