A GROWING CONCERN: Advice for launching into June

With one of the wettest Mays in recent history behind us, we’re all about turning the calendar and starting out the amazing month of June with vim and vigor as we launch into our gorgeous gardens with plenty on our mind.

1. Don’t butcher. I’m twisting your arms with this one task, as two of my dearest friends, Terry and Jackson, turn their nose at raising the mower height to 3-3/4 inches.

They both dump on the water and then the weed and feed in an endless battle to keep a green and thick lawn.

It’s this simple: A taller grass will shade and cool the ground (weed seeds germinate in sun-exposed soil), the length of the grass acts as a windbreak, allowing the grass to grow outward and thick, which also out-competes with the weeds.

2. Do get containers. Hanging baskets, clay pots, window boxes, half whiskey barrels, metal tubs — just get it!

I guarantee that if you get at least one very nice basket or pot and tend it carefully (water it every day), you will get more positive comments than you’ll receive about what’s in the rest of your yard.

3. Don’t use a weed and feed product. Not only does the weed and feed cause widespread destruction to our watershed, it also greatly disrupts the complex web of life happening within the soil of our lawns. Use organic fertilizers and read No. 1 again, my friends.

4. Do overseed your lawn. When your grass is thick (and not butchered short), bare ground is shaded and filled with new grass growth.

If you overseed every year (or preferably twice a year), there will be no room for weeds — OK, but a relatively small number of weeds that you can easily pull. Look for a 92-98 percent germination rate and a weed seed count less than 1 percent.

5. Don’t salt or urea the yard. Most commercial lawn feeds use highly soluble fertilizers, mostly with nitrogen, with a majority of the weight in salts and ureas as a carrier, which disrupts the natural system in your soil.

Try slow-release organic fertilizer programs like compost, blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, fishmeal, green sand, manures and leaf molds.

6. Do get dahlias. Now is the time to plant dahlias, buy more dahlias, look for different flower types and sizes, and get some cacti blooms.

Dahlias will be the best overall plant in your garden and will get better every day until October.

7. Don’t leave the rhodies out to dry. Many rhododendrons and azaleas do poorly every year because they have a very slight (shallow) root system.

You don’t want to see their roots. If you do, that means it is too dry and hot for their feet.

As our spring weather grows into summer heat and wind-blown days, get out there and mulch your rhodies and azaleas.

Work up the soil lightly, fertilize with rhododendron fertilizer, water and add 2 or 3 inches of mulch — but do not pile it up against the stems.

Instead, leave a 3- to 5-inch circle around them.

8. Do get the best hummingbird feeder. Since we are focusing on being good environmental residents, get some fuchsia baskets, pots or hardy fuchsia bushes.

Nothing attracts hummingbirds like fuchsias, and with them there is no concern about old water and disease.

Real flowering plants are also more aesthetically pleasing than those cheap red and yellow plastic feeders that you’re having to clean and change so frequently.

The little hummers really enjoy nosing into your hanging baskets, so hang them by a window for a double bonus round of color and activity.

9. Don’t water-blast your plantings. Your new plants need quite a lot of water the first year, with flowers and containers requiring daily doses.

Get the right equipment, not one of those chap, spray nozzles or the thumb-over-the-end routine.

Get a Dramm water breaker and put it on a watering wand.

Then get a good quality, long hose. Few things make for bad watering than a hose that’s too short or kinks all the time.

Water your lawn or trees deeply and weekly, not a 10- to 20-minute cycle once every other day, bringing the roots up to the surface and stressing the plant or grass. Deep watering makes for happy roots.

10. Do trail along. Get a full flat or two of trailing lobelia.

Stick a few here, a few there and everywhere.

In our climate, this plant will produce thousands of flowers until October, giving your home a lovely Victorian charm

11. Don’t forget to deadhead. Your summer flowers will produce so many more blooms, will look far superior and have a greatly diminished chance of getting various rots or molds if you simply cut away the dead blooms weekly.

Buy yourself a five-gallon bucket “shirt” with numerous pockets and put your Dramm water breaker in it, along with your trowel, a new pair of scissors, and a No. 6 Felco pruner (the No. 6 is an ideal size for deadheading and for fine horticulture work).

12. Do try gladiolas. This is a perfect plant for the flowerbed and as cut flowers for the home.

Buy several bags of gladiolas. Every 10 days plant one bag.

Do four or five plantings.

You’ll have gladiolas in your house and outdoors for three or four months this way.

13. Don’t be foolish. Treat yourself well.

Buy a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from damaging rays of the sun.

Use sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids and stretch before and after doing chores.

Get some mesh-backed skin-thin, tough garden gloves, plus carpet scraps to use as big kneeling pads.

You are a great gardener — treat yourself like one!

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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