Town Crier Articles

Summer Gardening: Tips and Tricks
Posted on July 1, 2022 5:50 AM by Patty Hancock
Categories: Life in New Town
It’s July in Williamsburg, the hottest month of the year with average daily temperatures of 90 plus degrees; August is only a few degrees cooler.  With this hot, humid, sub-tropical climate the beating rays of the summer sun can scorch, burn, and ravage spring plantings.
What can be done to beat the unrelenting heat and its toll on gardens?  One easy answer is container gardening.  Containers can be picked up and moved to a shady spot on your porch, patio, or balcony when the sun is baking them.  Fill the planters up with sun-loving annuals that are prolific bloomers and with a little TLC they’ll bloom until the first frost (around Oct. 25).  We live in zone 7b, a gardener’s dream, since it’s easy to grow all but the most tropical plants here.  The trick is to choose plants suitable for this southeastern region.
I’m not an expert – only an enthusiast who is sold on big, full, container gardens.  These gardens bring nature to your front door with colorful flowers that attract butterflies, bees (for pollination), and nectar loving hummingbirds.  What a show!
After constant experimentation, along with living in New Town for a decade, I’ve discovered tips and tricks to keep full sun annuals blooming in this summer southern oven we love to call home. 
~ 5 Tips to Get Started ~
1.  Don’t skimp on the container.  The more soil the better the results.  Go Big!
2.  Provide adequate drainage – try small rocks, gravel, or packing Styrofoam peanuts to help keep drainage holes open.
3.  Fill the planter with good soil for big blooms.  My favorite is “Miracle Gro Potting Mix”. 
4.  Choose the right plants for our zone and location.  Full sun (6 hours) or shade?  Heat tolerant?  
5.  Slow and steady fertilizing.  Water with weaker doses of a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.  I use “Miracle Gro Soluble Plant Food”.   
~ Tips and Tricks/ My Top Sun-Loving Container Annuals ~
1.  Petunias - look for the Wave variety. Showy blooms – trim back a little every week for continuous full blooms. 
2.  Verbena – pretty clusters of color, a trailer.  They are pollinator friendly plants.
3.  Geraniums – my favorites!  (Along with Thomas Jefferson who helped these beauties gain popularity with his love of their blooms).  Tip; when it gets really hot move them to afternoon shade and pinch back spent blooms daily. Remember, moderate watering-hydrated not saturated… geraniums do not like wet feet. 
4.  Dipladenia – plop it in a container and walk away.  It’s that easy.
5.  Zinnias – attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Easy to grow in the sun.
6.  Calibrachoa – little trumpets, look like tiny petunias on steroids.  
7.  Dragon Wing Begonia - just one suggestion for a SHADE container, it’s that special.  One and done!
There you have it.  Growing a lush, beautiful, sun-drenched planter until fall heads our way is not difficult.  Annuals are on sale just waiting for your green thumb; be creative, experiment, nurture, and most of all delight in your addition to nature’s bounty. 
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on July 1, 2022 8:47 PM
Thanks for the informative article Patty. Useful information for all of us landscapers!
Comment By: Kate Licastro
Posted on July 2, 2022 8:29 AM
Yes, I agree! You inspired my flower shopping yesterday!
Comment By: Susan Mulnix
Posted on July 2, 2022 10:02 AM
I loved this article as I never know what I should do. But Patty, do you have any ideas about rabbits, which are teeming on Eliz. Davis?
Comment By: Sherry Campbell
Posted on July 2, 2022 2:12 PM
Well done, Patty. You supplied many tips and plant suggestions, which are exactly what a non-gardener like me needs! And the beautiful pictures confirmed that you are someone I will listen to!