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OKC Beautiful: It's hot outside, but there are still things to do in the garden

Carla Sharpe: OKC Beautiful's Gardening Tip of the Month: Check for mites and sow hardy seeds during hot summer months.
By Carla Sharpe, For The Oklahoman Published: July 15, 2013

What a crazy spring and early summer we have had! In thinking about what to write for this month, I came across an old article by Loretta about another wet spring in 1995. Here are Loretta's words of warning about “pesky critters” after spring rains. And so we don't forget about the spring of 2014, here are Loretta's tips on sowing biennial and hardy annual seeds.

Check for mites. The heavy rains came, and now we are faced with a new problem. It's a “buggy” world out there, so defend your plants. Check your plants every few days. An insect invasion can occur almost overnight. The red spider mite causes gardeners many headaches because most chemicals that will kill the mites are not approved for use on vegetables. For red spider mites on tomatoes, use liquid Ivory soap. Never use a detergent. Use at the rate of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water.

Spray at weekly intervals and always early in the morning. Mites despise water and may leave and go next door, but some will be drowned by the water. Marigolds are among the plants that are most susceptible, so keep watch on them. The tiny mites hide on the underside of the foliage, and are difficult to see. If in doubt, take a sheet of white paper and shake the foliage over it. If mites are present, they will appear as tiny dots on the paper. Watch them closely, and if they move around, you have mites. Work toward control. A full blown infestation is difficult to control.

Sow seed of biennials and hardy annuals now. The heat continues. Time and tide wait for no one, and neither does the season to plant. Now through Sept. 15, sow seeds of biennials and hardy annuals. Despite the heat, this does not take much time or exertion. Seed scattered now and the next few weeks will ensure a colorful spring next year. Hardy annuals and biennials need a long growing season. Most will germinate in late September and stay green all winter. They require cold days to bloom well. This group includes the larkspur, bachelor button, scabiosa and annual poppies. Biennials include the Sweet William, Sweet Rocket, and the Lunaria or “Money Plant.” Simply rake and loosen the soil where you wish them to grow next year, and scatter the seed. After these showy plants have been established in the garden, nature will take over and they will return on schedule.

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