A GROWING CONCERN: Get ready for spring’s growing frenzy

WE HAVE ALL enjoyed the amazing blossoms and lovely flower displays appearing here on the Olympic Peninsula, with just enough drizzle to top the days off with a reminder it is, after all, early May.

Along with the grass growing fast enough to catch it with time-lapse photography, the weeds are taking over your flower beds at alarming rates, if you aren’t keeping active in the yard, fighting back with your mulch and germination inhibitor applications.

Kiss your leisure time goodbye with this baker’s dozen to-do list. Kiss your mother a generous thank you on the cheek while we take the honey-do list out into the yard.

1. Honor thy mother

Today is Mother’s Day, so flower her up right. Get a corsage for brunch, bring over a beautiful bouquet, or take her on a road trip — Whitney’s Gardens in Brinnon is bustling today. All mother’s love flowers (and if yours has passed, don’t pass up the chance to thank a step-mother, wife or significant other).

2. De-sucker

Today many of your trees and shrubs are sprouting lush, tender new suckers. They suck out nutrients and moisture and produce fruit and new growth that sucks as well.

While this less-than-desirable growth is young and tender, you can simply rub it off with your glove-covered hand.

In two or three weeks this scourge will wooden up, requiring you to get out the pruners and exert 10 times the effort, so get out today and pet those suckers away.

Repeat this every three to four weeks throughout the summer for sucker-free and obedient plants.

3. Raise the mower

The best thing that you can do for your grass is raise the mower blade up to 3½ to 3¾ inches high.

It also is the worst thing for weeds in your lawn because that move higher will kill many of them, saving water, fertilizer, gas money and time.

4. Lime away

Your grass, all of your flowers and blooming perennials, most of your fine ornamentals, the baskets and pots, plus your entire orchard and vegetable garden, need lime for proper pH, which translates to healthy growth.

Buy pelletized lime for the easiest of applications, but lime now.

5. Feed the beasts

The months of May and June are two of the most voracious months as far as your plants are concerned.

New growth buds, fruit, flowers, leaves and limbs take abundant amounts of nutrients to grow properly.

Fertilize with organic feeds and blends formulated for each type of plant grouping (i.e. evergreens, grasses, vegetables, flowers, acid-loving, etc.)

6. Sharpen the tools

Your mower blades, shovels, pruners, loppers, hoes, saws and scissors require a sharp blade for proper usage.

Sharpen your tools and then oil down the moving metal parts. Purchase any new replacement pieces for a super-sharp spring and summer.

7. Stake ’em up

Many of your beautiful flowers like delphiniums or peonies, though gorgeous, will eventually fall over or break apart.

As the peas grow, the clematis climb and the lilies leap forward, stake ’em up for upright attention and glory.

8. Watch your dahlias

Cut ’em down. Some of your perennials — the fall flower kinds, like mums, asters and upright sedum — become very tall, leggy and difficult to maintain or stake as fall approaches.

This week, cut them back to a height of 2-3 inches (halfway down or more at a height of 4-6 inches.)

The double cutback will turn them into short, dense, compact, prolific spots of awesome October-November flowers.

9. Deadhead

Deadheading (cutting off the dead or spent flowers) is the miracle cure for all blooming plants.

As soon as the tulips fade, the daffodils wilt, the rhodies lose their luster, the forsythia fold — whatever your flower begins to die — cut them off.

This single action will double flowers next year, enlarge them and cause more flowers to sprout forward in many plants, especially your annuals, pots, baskets and other flowering containers.

10. Whoa, Nelly

My good buddy Doug always says, “The first of June is none too soon,” when it comes to planting tomatoes, peppers, melons and other vines along with zinnias, impatiens, coleus, marigolds, geraniums and salvia.

Many actually require soil temperatures of 55-plus degrees to grow flowers or produce well.

Here on the Peninsula, that won’t happen for a while. Also cool temperatures harden off these warm-soil-loving plants, delaying flowers and fruit production into August.

Delay, grasshopper, delay.

11. Cool-tolerant

Many plants like, even love, our cool temperature: sweet peas, edible peas, alyssum, lobelia, snap dragons, broccoli Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, pansies, petunias, violas, dusty millers, kohlrabi, radishes, greens, onions, leek and scallions, along with carnations, coral bells, godetia, even sedums.

These could have been planted weeks ago and enjoyed here on the Olympic Peninsula until the end of November.

Plant many and often in the case of cool-tolerant plants.

12. Dahlias demanded

Dahlias come in tall, short, 12-inch flowers, 1-inch flowers, every color and every flower type and are fabulous cut flowers.

13. Lucky 13

The Peninsula is the best spot to grow unbelievably gorgeous flower baskets.

Our cool, mild evenings and summer days devoid of high humidity and frequent 90-degree days is the secret.

So shine on and display some hanging baskets, remembering that fuchsia baskets are the best hummingbird feeders ever devised.

The best, next of course to our wonderful mothers.


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 news@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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