In order to keep your various vegetables productive harvest as soon as they are ready . In the case of spinach and lettuce immediately start harvesting the larger outside leaves. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

In order to keep your various vegetables productive harvest as soon as they are ready . In the case of spinach and lettuce immediately start harvesting the larger outside leaves. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: May days begin a bountiful harvest

HOORAY, HOORAY IT’S the 3rd of May. Ah, May — my favorite month of the year. It just sounds so good.

But in all earnestness, May really does crank things up in the garden and in your yard — mowing your grass every 5 days. There are many chores to do now especially cutting back (i.e. pinching) all your fall flowering mums, sedums and asters. To do so dramatically increases their volume, produces far more flowering and vastly reduces their height so staking is not necessary.

This is what I will been doing all May long.

Cut them down to a height of 1 to 2 inches, then do that again in early June to a height of 4 to 5 inches for unbelievable results because of a “double pinch.”

A reader writes asking what they need to be doing to their May flowers as well.

Hi Andrew: I know I need to leave the leaves on the spring flowers and bulbs after they are done blooming. How long do I need to keep watering them? Jenny

Dear Jenny: For absolute best results, and those results being more flowers, larger flowers and more robust plants, treat your spring bulb plants as precious items until they wither and turn brown. First and foremost; cut off the old flowers before they turn brown. By doing so the plant does not trigger the response to reproduce.

All living things exist to procreate, so your spring bulb plants will then naturally try to produce more flowers next year in response to no flowers this year. Plants are very easy to manipulate. I count on that.

The key is the care afterwards and this is your question. Your bulbs by now have used up a lot of their store of energy in producing all those flowers. You have to now cut away all those flowers before the reproductive cycle has started and your bulbs want to produce even more flowers next year.

This means it will really have to store up even more energy than before.

Cultivate the soil around your bulb plants and weed as you dead-head.

A smart gardener would apply lime and a general fertilizer for the wonderful annual flowers that they would be planting over the bulb once the foliage is gone.

The point is, Jenny, treat those flowerless plants as well as you can.

By watering the freshly-weeded, cultivated and amended soil, foliage will turn a lot of sunlight, along with your care and concern, into a plant bulb for next year’s prolific showing.

The idea is to keep the leaves healthy as long as possible, as in the case of foliage that deteriorates from tips down and looks ugly or unkempt (such as daffodils and hyacinths).

I, a few weeks in, cut off the upper, ugly, top half. This extends the foliage’s food production for another few weeks. As a side note; this also means it is not until in June sometime that the foliage is ready to be fully cutaway — “since the first of June is none too soon.”

The time is then ready for plants like geraniums, begonias coleus, zinnias, marigolds, salvia, caladiums, colosia and my favorite, impatiens. Thanks for the question.

Harvest bounty

Since we are on the topic of reproduction cycles and how to extend prolificness, lets get back to our own Corona Gardens.

My spinach greens and lettuce, along with the curled parsley, Italian parsley, chives and the oregano are all ready to be harvested now.

In fact, I know soon I will have more spinach than I can use. But I have neighbors and it is vital if you want both increased yields and extended harvest time, then you must harvest.

Let’s start with my spinach. Even if I had nowhere to gift it, I will still harvest the outside larger leaves as they grow and compost them.

Letting that plant mature will start the reproductive “seed head” cycle.

That would be the end of that spinach. But if you keep harvesting outer leaves and perfect, tender size, then that will keep the plant living longer.

In peas and beans this is a must. Do not let peas and beans get old, large and start to ripen into seed.

That is the death knell of reproduction. You want fresh vegetables, small, young and tender.

Zucchini and squash are best with the flowers still on. The flower is edible as well and makes a great tempura.

Green beans, only 3 inches long and Swiss chard leaves all of 6 inches. Harvest your garden no matter what.

Now excuse me, I have to go harvest spinach, along with some chives which should work well with the scallops tonight. 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).

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