Summer is when my garden starts to look like a jungle. As plants reach their full size, they crowd each other for space. A full garden is good, when the soil is completely covered in vegetation there is no light hitting the ground, so weeds have no space to grow. Another benefit of having no bare ground is less erosion damage. As rain droplets fall, they are intercepted by plant leaves that slow their speed when hitting the earth.
However, this is the time of year when it is a good idea to take some notes about which plants should be moved around to give every plant the space they need. If a species is prolific and is crowding its neighbor, it may be time to send some of the plants on the edge to the compost pile. Also, plants crowding the path should be removed either to the compost or cut them back for now and transplant them later in the fall. Another solution to crowded walkways is to stop using some paths for the summer. Some of my more interior paths are just open during the spring when I need to get in there to weed and the paths disappear as the late summer bloomer mature.
Newer gardens will still be producing annual weeds in the summer and even though it is hot, it is best to go pull them out before they go to seed. Invasive species are a constant problem in any garden and need to be removed regularly. Spring blooming invasives will begin to produce seed and should be removed before they can infest the garden with another generation.
Plant diseases like aster yellows show up in summer. Stems and flower heads become deformed because of a virus that can be contagious to the other garden plants if the diseased material is not disposed of. If anything looks unusually about a plant, it is wise to try to figure out why right away incase there is a cure. Insect damage will also occur, but this is good because healthy insect populations support healthy ecosystems.
Summer can be a time of drought. Native plants are generally drought tolerant or at least more so then exotic species. Newer plantings will still need to be watered regularly until they have mature root systems. The first two years of a garden bed becoming established it is a good practice to water the planting deeply once a week if it has not rained. Trees may want to be watered for even longer since they have such large root systems. Often transplanting can be very traumatic for a tree because so much of the root system is removed. To spend less time watering, plant smaller trees and flowers so that they can grow sufficient root systems quickly and support themselves.
Spring blooming flowers will begin to set seed in the summer months or even earlier. Some species will have ripe seed all at the same time and some plants may produce one ripe seed a day. Walk the garden regularly to check for ready seeds to collect. Keep collected seeds in a dry cool place free of bugs and mice. If seed propagation seems intimidating try just collecting one species to get a feel for it. Remember that any seeds left out in the garden will either become food for some creature or will fall to the ground and germinate, maybe even in a place you like, if you’re lucky.