John Seaton, the newly retired Conservatory manager, has helped the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory keep their gardens green and thriving for many years, so they couldn’t let him leave without asking him to send along a few reminders:
Watering should be done in the early morning, not at night. Evening watering of lawns, roses and tomatoes encourages molds and mildews. It is also much better to water deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather, rather than to water a little bit more frequently. Create a rain gauge by sinking a cat food can into the soil that you have marked off in 1-inch increments. Then set up your sprinkler and turn on the water. When the can is filled up to, 1.5 inches, check the time. This would be a deep watering. Be sure to allow for windy conditions.
Mulch as much as you can, using bark chips for trees and shrubs; allow up to 2 inches of mulch but leave a saucer-shaped disk area around the trunk of stems of your shrubs. Please, “No Volcano Mulching.” For your perennials, annuals and vegetables use finer mulch, such as composted cocoa bean hulls or peat. Before mulching, dig out any perennial weeds such as dandelions, dock, burdock, thistle and perennial weed grasses. Also, apply slow-release fertilizer to the area at the rate of one handful per square yard. The mulch material uses nutrients from the soil as it breaks down, so this helps the plants a great deal.
For early flowering perennials, if you cut off the old flower stalks, this encourages new bloom in the fall. All annuals should have their old flowers dead-headed. This will encourage reblooming and help keep growth more compact.
For container gardens and hanging baskets, keep the plants pinched back after flowering so there will be new growth and new flowers. If you can, rotate your pots once a week and, when watering, fill to the top then let it drain. Double pot your containers, especially the tall, top-heavy ones, so they will not blow over. Rig up some kind of irrigation system, especially for your hanging baskets and balcony trough planters.
Have a good summer gardening, and do not forget to enjoy the plantings throughout the parks, especially at Scoville, Lindberg, Barrie, Pleasant Home, Fox and Longfellow.