Zone Classifieds Garden Primer From Edibles to Weeds, 7 Tips for Your Summer Garden

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Garden Primer

From Edibles to Weeds, 7 Tips for Your Summer Garden

BY Charlie Dobbin | July 5th, 2024

When I started writing these columns the plan was to identify what I’m doing in my garden, and to share some timely tips. As the months have progressed, I realize I’m actually creating a garden journal. And that is something I always recommend my clients do. 

Old-fashioned written journals can be super helpful to clarify environmental incidents like precipitation, temperature and wind events. But do use your camera to also track plant performance daily or weekly. This information can be very helpful when planning from year to year.

One of the popular presentations I offer to groups is called “Gardening in a Changing Climate.” I start with photos of extreme weather events and finish with tips for being proactive with garden design, plant choices and always the importance of maintaining healthy soil.

Meanwhile, here’s what you’ll find me doing in my garden these days:


  1. If you planted garlic last fall like I did, watch for and remove the ‘scapes’ as they grow from the bulbs. They are green and look a little like a pig tail. If left in place they will become flowers and have a detrimental effect on the size of the bulbs of your final harvest. The scapes are completely edible and can be used in cooking just like we use garlic cloves.
  2. What about some of the other edibles in the garden? We’ve been picking leaf lettuce for a number of weeks. And I’ve been sowing more lettuce seeds since the plants will flower eventually and then no longer produce big leaves. Hot temperatures speed up flowering (or bolting) so it’s nice to have small fresh plants that keep providing fresh greens.
  3. If you haven’t already, thin carrots, beets, leeks and onions to the spacing recommended on the seed packages. Overcrowding does not lead to quality plants.
  4. Stay on top of the weeds! One flowering, and ultimately seed-producing weed can undo all those long hours spent outside pulling weeds this season. As an aside, I often joke that this chore is far more pleasurable with a bottle of wine nearby. Frank Proctor, my ex-cohost on The Garden Show on Zoomer Radio AM740, [a ZoomerMedia property],  always took this image to the next level with me wearing a backpack wine cooler crawling on the lawn from weed to weed!
  5. While you’re taking a break in the shade (with or without wine), study your garden to plan improvements this autumn. Have your chosen plants that provide all-season interest? Interesting plant parts can include shaggy or colourful bark like birch. Plant form matters (think of Corkscrew Hazel) as does colourful flowers and foliage. In the shade garden we rely heavily on the bright foliage of hosta and brunnera since our choices of flowering plants is more limited. A mix of shrubs and perennial plants that bloom from spring to autumn is the goal.
  6. If you haven’t sheared your cedars, do it now. Left undone they will become naked of foliage at the base with lots of green above. Not the ideal hedge look. And while you’re giving haircuts, prune back any shrubs that have finished blooming for the season. Spirea and deutzia are two examples.
  7. I highly recommend an assessment of your trees by a certified arborist. Check with the International Society of Arboriculture to find someone knowledgeable and experienced. Be smart and pre-emptive to avoid unnecessary damage to trees and property due to high winds.

Charlie Dobbin hosts The Garden Show With Charlie Dobbin on Zoomer Radio AM740 (a ZoomerMedia property) every Saturday at 9 a.m., EDT. A version of this story was originally published on July 5, 2022.

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