— Photo Courtesy Lafayette Florist & Greenhouses in Lafayette, Colo. www.lafayetteflorist.com

It’s all planted, looking good, in patio pots, hanging baskets and in flower beds. Your annuals, perennials and vegetables are enjoying their new digs, fresh soil and all is good in the world. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, enjoy a cold beverage and reap the “fruits” of your labor. Beautiful blooms and healthy foliage … gardening bliss.

But then, out of  nowhere, spent blooms, leggy plants, yellow and brown leaves, deformed fruit, mildew/rust spots on leaves and a couple of insects you’ve NEVER seen before — they look like they came from outer space! Don’t panic, I’m here to help.

Before

Pictured here are before and after shots of an overgrown container garden and the same container after a little tender loving care. Follow these “top five” tips to help you keep your garden and flowers blooming all summer and growing well into the fall.

1. Dead-head or pinch back spent and dying blooms. This means getting rid of any blossoms that have served their purpose,  by using your thumb and finger to remove it from the plant. It will then put its energies into more blooms and its overall health. It will focus its energy on more flowers and try not to produce seed. Use scissors or prunes, if needed.

After

2. Water deeply for good root production. A generous soaking is much better than frequent drinks.

3. Feed generously. A well-balanced fertilizer will give your plants the nutrition they desperately need. Yellowing of plants is usually from a lack of nitrogen, or excessive watering with poor drainage.

4. Watch for and control insects and disease. Bugs can be an issue for the health and overall production of your plants. Many organic solutions are available. Diatomaceous earth, NEEM oil, insecticidal soaps are excellent controls for pests. Iron sulphate, Spinosad and sulfur are good controls for fungus and diseases. The use of Lady Bugs, Praying Mantis and predator urines can also be effective.

Plant Food

5. Mulch. In the dog days of summer, a good layer of bark mulch will help keep down weeds, retain moisture and keep soil temps cooler.

This should help to calm your fears. And remember, you can always bring your damaged foliage, weird bugs or twisted leaves in a zip locked bag to your local garden center and talk to their in-house flower guy or extension agent for further instructions. There will be times when pulling and replacing a damaged or overgrown plant is the best remedy.

What advice have you received from your garden center?