A GROWING CONCERN: The season begins with a new work list

HERE WE ARE already — June 2.

We are basically halfway through the year but only at the beginning of our magnificent growing season.

With that said, and with all the work that is needed to be done for late spring and early summer — Bang!

Here comes not one but two consecutive weeks of work as we start the first of two chore lists for your garden.

1. Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Lilacs

Early summer is the ideal time to be treating those 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 bulbs are pulled, do a shape prune — cut off any wayward branches and all 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 plant.

Then feed them with rhododendron or azalea fertilizer and finish the task with a 4 to 5-inch layer of mulch.

Don’t forget to water very heavily for one week.

2. 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 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 with your August bulb order and make an even more spectacular 2020 spring.

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 cut back right after flowering.

Delphiniums, lupines, asters, columbines, perennial allysum, etc., are all plants that if you cut away all flowers and 70 percent to 90 percent of the large foliage, they will re-bloom again in the fall.

5. Spray down

Hedges as well as tight, compact evergreens (think arborvitaes deodars) get clogged with old leaves and needles.

A trick I employ often is to use a jet or stream spray setting on a nozzle at the end of a hose and blast away all the foliar debris, working slowly from the top to the bottom of the plant.

It is amazing how washing out these types of plants can improve their overall appearance.

6. Slugs

Once just small little drops of slime, these eating machines have grown into ravenous young adults with only two purposes in mind — destroy your favorite flowers overnight and reproduce into hundreds more.

Be diligent in looking for early warning signs such as a few leaves totally destroyed overnight or the glistening slime trails and take action.

Do not react with poisons, however, because they can kill pets and other furry friends.

Beer, boots, pliers and a host of nontoxic controls are extremely beneficial and recommended.

In other words, try to kill with a conscience.

7. Kill the other beast

The weeds have not lost their resolve to take over your garden just because you wiped out 97 percent of them a few weeks ago.

In fact, bolstered by perfect germination conditions of late, a major invasion is already occurring.

The beginning of June is the perfect time to again cover the yard with a search and destroy mission.

8. Feed the beast

All your plants are growing, producing leaves, buds and new growth, so keep the food coming.

All season long you should add a little lime here, some blood meal there, a dash of compost to this and a foliar feed to that.

Realize that for most plants, the fertilizer of March and April is all but used up or leached away by now.

The nutrient applied today is readily available to the plant tomorrow.

9. The American lawn

First your lawn mower.

Take off the blade, sharpen, 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 means cool shade on the soil.

Don’t forget a light fertilizer for your lawn every month or two because Americans idolize a super green lawn, yet few of us possess such a thing.

I have often said that agricultural iron is really green paint as far as your grass is concerned.

Iron, especially when applied in liquid form, has an almost instant effect, turning even yellow lawns green.

Adding iron to a yard is very noticeable (as well as sprayed on any yellowing trees, bushes and shrubs), so give it a try and remember too, that it can take two or three weeks to get a brown lawn re-hydrated, so keep it moist ahead of a big event.

10. Water away

The day before a special event, fully saturate the yard, watering extremely well the bushes, shrubs, trees, lawn, even the gravel pathways, driveways and mulched areas.

First, a good watering will knock down any and all dust.

Second, watering the day before adequately gets moisture to the plants, but also means there will be no mud or puddles around to foul up your guests’ attire and footwear.

Watering your lawn the day before allows for a soft, spongy surface without moisture clinging to everyone’s shoes and into your house.


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@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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