IN JUST TWO weeks, summer will begin (Sunday, June 20 at 12:21 p.m.) but the weather of late sure has us fooled into believing it already has.
With that said, what jobs does the weather call out to be done now?
Here is a baker’s dozen of summertime chores.
1. The lawn
First, your lawn mower.
Take off the blade, sharpen it, change the oil, tighten and lube all the nuts and bolts, clean or change the filters and give it a good cleaning. Next, raise the mower to the highest setting.
The blade needs to be set high because the summer sun dries out the soil and heats it up tremendously.
Longer grass blades mean cool shade for the soil.
Lastly, don’t forget a light fertilizer for your lawn every month or two.
2. Rhodies, azaleas and lilacs
Early summer is the ideal time to be treating these prolific spring treasures. Care begins with removing those thousands of dead flower heads. Yes, I know there are a lot.
Yes, I know they are hard to reach. But this job pays back dividends in more flowers and a far healthier bush. When all the spent blooms are pulled, do a shape prune — cut off any wayward branches and all the deadwood.
If you need to reduce the size dramatically, do so now because these plants produce next year’s buds very soon.
Finally, make sure you cultivate the soil around the plants. Then feed them with a rhododendron or azalea fertilizer. Finish the task with a 4- to 5-inch layer of mulch. Don’t forget to water very heavily for one week.
3. Your spring bulbs
The last ones have faded, and the early ones are toast. Clean up bulb plants by cutting or pulling away the spent foliage.
Cultivate the soil, feed them with a nice application of bone meal (to be repeated again at the end of August) and water them well.
Take any last notes pertaining to your bulbs — such as too short, need more red, etc. This information will help your August bulb order and make an even more spectacular spring 2022.
All your fruit trees and highly ornamental bushes and shrubs are quickly producing energy sapping and visually disgusting suckershoots along their branches and stems.
If you go out now and remove the suckershoots, your plants will benefit greatly. Do this a couple of times a month, when the shoots are tender, they just push right off in your bare hand.
5. Shape prune
Grab your pruners and shape all your plants today. Cut away branches that block window or driveway views and remove them from the house and pathway. Then snip away the errant branches that stick out here and there.
If you shape prune now (and cut on a node facing the desired direction of future growth, i.e., away from the window) then you can enjoy a mostly prune-free summer.
Few jobs can return more flowers to you than deadheading.
As your summer flowers fade, remove them from the plant. Already there are dead flowers on your marigolds, zinnias (a deadheading must), geraniums, etc. Take them off immediately.
This ongoing task produces more flowers, extends bloom time, reduces disease and eliminates much of the future breeding ground for insects.
7. Pinch away
Carry deadheading to the next level. On many selective plants, such as petunias, take off the old flower and pinch out a set or two of leaves. This produces several times more flowers than deadheading alone. A perfect program includes deadheading and pinching off a few stems at the same time.
8. Re-plug plants
Right now all the plant vendors have good supplies left. This won’t last long, so go out so go out and check all your beds, baskets, pots and containers.
Be strong if there are weak, spindly, sick plants — pull them out. These plants will only continue to perform poorly, so don’t waste time or ruin the look.
Replace and add in flowers while the beds are still young and replacements are available to beef up your designs.
9. The veggies
Production should be in full swing. This week add a new row of radishes, leaf lettuce, greens and beets between rows of slower growing crops.
Do you have new crops of broccoli, beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or mid-season cabbages started yet? Why not? And don’t forget that old vegetable plants are perfect compost material.
10. Check spray heads and cycles
As plants grow, they have a tendency to block irrigation heads. Recheck your sprinkler patterns today.
Are all your plants getting wet? If not, prune away blockages and adjust or raise the spray heads.
Also, don’t forget to check your time settings.
Summer sun is intense and hot. Your plants and their roots are growing fast. Adjust your watering accordingly.
After watering, your soil should be wet to the fingertips a good 5- to 6-inches deep.
To be sure, use your hand or a soil probe, and plunge it deep into the soil.
Always let the soil dry out before soaking again. This trains the roots to go down after the moisture not up to the surface.
On irrigation systems, junk the everyday or every-other-day cycle and give the area enough water (1 to 2 inches) to soak down and then let dry. Repeat.
Watering is one of the most difficult summer jobs — stay in tune with your soils.
All true gardeners are always hoeing here, tilling there. They do this to break up the soil crust, which helps water and air penetrate the soil. This in turn influences the water and nutrients your plants can uptake.
Within weeks, new weeds grow and freshly tilled soil compacts and crusts over again, so give your soils a bi-monthly massage.
13. Baskets and containers
First, go get more.
Second, take care of them. Water these plants every day — regardless of outside weather.
When it is hot and sunny, water again in the evenings.
Pinch them always and deadhead like mad. Give them dissolved fertilizer (blue water) at least once a week. They will love that.
And everyday … 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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).