A GROWING CONCERN: Garden homework for the end of the school year

WELL HERE WE are, already into the month of June. Soon school will be out and summer activities begin in earnest!

So with that said, let me give you the list of the dozen chores we will get to work on because these jobs make the garden look spiffy.

1. Watering (it’s an art form, you know).

I should have known better than to fresh plant flowers, then go on a 10-day road trip when items just planted need water every day and deeply for a week or more.

When dry, it can take from 12 to 20 waterings in a single day to thoroughly soak the arid ground. We water deeply and often at the garden on tour in order to keep plants healthy, not stressed out or hardened and stalled.

You need to do the same and check the depth of moisture penetration by sticking your fingers deep into the soil and numerous places, verifying that the water has soaked down several inches into the soil.

2. Re-slug.

Slugs started early this year, you know the planting season didn’t. With all the rain and watering, first slug bait application is gone, but new generations of slugs are here and eating your dahlias, lilies and other favorite plants. Apply new pet-safe slug bait today for great flowers without chew holes in them.

3. De-sucker.

Remember, suckers suck! They suck moisture, nutrients and aesthetic value and are appearing amazingly fast now.

When fresh, young and tender, they just rub off with gloved hands. We petted down all our suckering trees, and this technique saved hours of pruning work later, so please check all your trees, shrubs and bushes today.

4. The dreaded cut back.

We live in one of the few places in the world where spring blooming perennials re-flower in the fall if they are severely cut back right after flowering. Delphiniums, lupins aspens, asters, columbines, perennial alyssum, etc., are all plants that if you cut away all flowers and 70 to 90 percent of the large foliage, they will rebloom again in the fall. Just how great is that?

5. Deadhead.

Deadheading, the removal of all spent flowers as soon as they wither is the mandatory task for continuous and ever-increasing abundance of flowers.

This needs to be done every few days for a prolific and gorgeous garden, don’t delay — deadhead today.

6. Shape-prune.

Now that we are in the growing season your plants are stretching out in all directions.

Every week, you should snip an errant branch here, a crossover stem there or an-in-your-face limb whacking you while you mow.

Shape pruning is what keeps your plants looking marvelous and your neighbors envious.

7. Dead/dying plant replacement.

Do not marry your plants.

If they look poor or are drying or dead, immediately replace them so as the season progresses, bare dead holes do not appear all over your garden.

Also, replacing poor plants instantly keeps all your plants at the same level of development as opposed to small plants later on being planted in a mature setting.

8. Resurface.

Be it gravel, mulch, beauty bark or rock, now is a great time after all the traffic and commotion of spring planting to resurface and regrade your beds, pathways, berms, driveway and yard. This really gives your yard a new and organized clean look.

9. Re-edge.

As you prepare to re-surface, re-edge your yard first. Grass, and foot and equipment traffic have caused your nice lines between gardens, grass, driveways, rockeries and patios to become degraded.

A new sharp edge is a nice, sharp line that should last until autumn. A great look is in the fine details.

10. Weed and spray.

We just took the opportunity with last weeks’ sunny weather to spray the weeds because they never take a break.

Spray them, till them, hoe and chop them, but get them out now before they fully intertwine and integrate into your flowers, perennials and landscaping.

11. Pestilence patrol.

The true secret to controlling disease and insects is early detection and control. Inspect every few days for bugs and disease.

Do not marry your plants. If bugs or disease are present and you find them on a single plant early, prune or pull out and replace. Most pestilence starts in a single small area, but just like the fires in Arizona, it spreads dangerously quick if the trouble spot is not put out immediately.

12. Notes, labels.

Once things are planted, label them, make notes or write in a journal so you will know what that plant was next year and how it did or did not do.

How many, when planted, what fertilizer, how much, too big too small or just right is the info all gardeners want and need to know.

Do it now while the memory is fresh and the tags have yet to fade in the sun.

And of course … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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