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Using organic mulch, such as pine needles, is one approach to keeping your plants healthy.

Late summer is often a test of wits both for the gardener as well as for the plants. Long, hot days; too much or too little rain; an army of insects plus disease and fungi that seem to appear overnight—all add up to late summer problems.

Experienced gardeners seem to take it all in stride. However, if you’re a novice, perhaps these tips will help you extend your summer garden into one you will cherish for several more weeks.

Do your containers of annuals appear wilted during the day but seem to freshen up at night? If so, this usually is caused by too much heat. Water thoroughly allowing the water to drain through containers two or three times.

Pot-bound plants may be another reason. Gently tap the bottom of the pot and lift out the root ball. If roots have grown around and are tight, water drains out before soaking in. Clip some of the excess roots and place back in the pot with fresh soil. Water thoroughly and keep in a shaded location for several days.

Intense afternoon sun and extreme temperatures are another cause for plant fatigue. If possible, move plants to a location that receives morning sun. Filtered afternoon sun is another option.

Another method of combating wilt is using mulch. Organic mulch made from decomposed sawdust, grass clippings and weed chips of cotton seed hulls is excellent for maintaining moisture near plants.

Water thoroughly in the morning, so water doesn’t evaporate quickly. Plants have several hours for leaves to dry. Evening watering may encourage mildew or other fungi. Roses should be watered near the soil level. Avoid getting water on rose leaves.

Deadheading, or removing all old blooms, is essential for new flowers. Without this simple procedure, the plant believes it is time to make seed. Thus, flowering ceases.

Clean the ground area near annuals, perennials, and roses. Remove dried leaves or foliage. Clip dead branches or stems. This helps control disease and fungi in the garden.

Avoid pulling stems of spent perennials. Instead, cut or break near ground level. This helps insure healthy plants for next spring.

If grass or weeds have invaded the pot, begin removing these unwelcome guests. These drain and take away nutrients from cherished plants. Roots come up easier after a rain.

Inspect all plants weekly for insects. This insures the pests will not invade a large area. Continue to fertilize annuals in late summer for blooms until frost. They have only one season so push them to the limit.

Realize when it’s time to say goodbye to some favorites. Instead of coaching them for another month, remove and replace them with fall mums or colorful pansies.

Remember, plants in a garden look nice for viewing. Plants in a hand look nice for giving. Brighten someone’s day by sharing your flowers with a friend.

Carolyn Tomlin writes for the magazines and newspaper market. Email: tomlinm@bellsouth.net