During the heat wave, flowers in the summer garden fade and some start looking ragged. Spring blooms are gone and soaring temperatures take a toll on the appearance of your summer garden. Grab your pruners and give the garden perennials a good trim for more blooms to appear. Do this in the early a.m. to avoid the heat.If you're not having rain, set up the soaker hose and give everything a good soaking; weeds will be easier to pull that way. If you haven't gotten a soaker hose yet, water with the garden hose, avoiding direct blasts to flowers and foliage. Water at the base, particularly with summer perennials like roses and hollyhocks.
Remove yellow, dying foliage of those spring blooming bulbs. They have rejuvenated now so they'll again put on a good show next spring, Clip spring bulbs near the bottom, but leave an inch or two so you'll remember where they are when planting more in the fall.
Prune back wildflowers and garden perennials that appear spent. These will bloom again this season. Cut them back above a node, about one third to half way down, above a leaf if nodes are not visible. Many natives such as echinacea and blanket flower will re-bloom and offer a surprise display in the late summer garden. Stop pinching back fall mums. Plant sedums for fall blooms in the perennial garden. Consider adding ornamental grasses.
Start some seeds outdoors. Many spring and summer perennials for next year can be started now from seeds, which is a money-saving method of getting new blooms. Just keep them well-watered during the summer heat. Mulch can help hold the moisture in the soil.
Plan for autumn additions, such as a new shrub or more spring bulbs that should be planted before the ground freezes. In areas that don't experience a winter freeze, plan for a winter vegetable crop in addition to your season for perennial blooms. While it is too early to plant in most places, it's a great time to prepare the soil by working in organic material or other needed amendments.
Take a soil test and deliver it to your local Cooperative Extension office. Soil samples are analyzed for a small fee (this service is free in North Carolina). Recommendations get back to you in time to add lime, sulfur or other amendments to make your perennial garden the best it can be next year.
There's life left in the perennial garden this year, it just needs some coaxing to bring it back. Devote some early mornings to getting the garden back in shape.