A GROWING CONCERN: Thirteen ways to summer garden bliss

YOUR “CORONA GARDENS,” yard, lawn and landscape should all be going gangbusters by now.

Tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day and pay homage. Hopefully the barbecue will come out and you can sit (6 feet away) with family and friends.

June will soon be upon us and as you look out to your yard, I will give you a long list — a 13 things-to-do list.

1. Go against the ingrained compulsion to keep your lawn short-short.

Temperatures are up, sun is out and the prospects of water restrictions loom. Raise your mower deck to 3¼ inches or even a 3½ inch cut.

Longer grass is softer, healthier but most importantly will need far less water to stay green (it shades itself, the ground and keeps the soil temperature cooler).

2. De-sucker your fruit trees.

The blooms have set fruit, leaves are out and hundreds of little suckers are at the base of your trees and all along the branches. These growths leech the very fruit developing nutrient you so hope to get to your apples, pears, plums and cherries. Remove them now. They are extremely tender and in most cases just pushing them backwards with your thumb will snap them off.

3. Don’t forget on all your blooming shrubs and bushes to deadhead, prune or pinch the very week the blooms wither.

Savvy gardeners also knows to harvest the flowers a few days prior, not only enjoy them indoors or give them away, but fully maximize the advantages that removal gives (bigger and better blooms, hundreds more).

4. Lightly cultivate.

Soil needs to breathe. Lightly cultivating the soil every few weeks destroys the weeds, stops compaction and even allows for greater water absorption. June is the perfect time to begin this monthly habit.

5. Re-Edge.

June is the ideal month to go and re-edge the whole yard. Giving a new edge or reworking the Border (straighten the plastic edge, dig out the rocks, wash off and stain the timbers or replace a broken block or two) will give your yard a professional, finished look.

6. Take care of your roses.

Here they come, along with disease, bugs and black spots.

Get on top of this by pulling off all old, yellow, damaged leaves as soon as you see them. Do it now (and a couple times a week) while the problems are still manageable and affecting only 50 percent to 70 percent of your foliage. And please — your roses crave food and water. Don’t be a tightwad.

7. Pinch summer annuals.

Are you ready for your hardest assignment? Go out in your yard among the zinnias, petunias, marigolds, coleus and those gorgeous geraniums — and pinch away.

Every few days remove the tips of a few plants. This will space out the effect of removing flowers.

This pinching effect while taking out a few will return tenfold the amount of flowers for the year and produce a far superior plant.

8. Prune those early/mid/late spring perennials.

Okay, here’s the chore that gets the award for best return on labor.

If you cut back severely your spring and early summer perennials — your daisies, delphiniums, primula, lupines — they will re-bloom again bigger and better in the fall.

If you immediately take out the blooms and flower stalks, strip out 50 percent of the old, yellow and large green leaves, cultivate the soil, weed, feed and water, you won’t believe how magnificent those plants will bloom in October.

9. Shape and prune.

June (the earlier the better) is the time of year to do your shape prunes.

Growth is now lush, but also fully developed. Go to your windows, walkways fences, gates or specimen trees (i.e Japanese maples especially) and remove the out of place or house rubbing branches. Clip the tops of hedges in the way of your view.

Done correctly, giving those prune cuts now results in a great look while giving you a maintenance free summer — at least pruning wise.

10. Pinch your mums, aster and tall sedums.

Another hard job for most people, but it will pay you back enormously.

I know, your asters, mums and Autumn Joy are lush, big and even have buds. I know, I know. But gardening isn’t always pretty.

Cut those babies down 50 percent to a level about 3 to 5 inches above the ground.

The results? Thousands of flowers on sturdier, bushier plants that stand up without staking. Don’t forget to feed and cultivate, too.

11. Celebrate June by tearing open seed packs.

Good vegetable gardens are in constant harvest — so do some constant sowing.

Next to a finishing crop, sow a new seed row of beans, lettuce, radishes, spinach or greens. How about some more onions?

12. Go on plant patrol.

I find early June perfect for eradicating poor plants.

Say bye-bye to those bad impatiens, a sickly lavender plant or a withering bush.

It is still early in the growing season, plant vendors still have replacements and that plant will always be the runt of the litter if not dead soon.

So why not get the deed done so the rest of the yard won’t suffer?

13. Don’t let those containers dry out.

The wise person waters plants in pots, planters, baskets and boxes twice a day when the sun is out.

Full sun and hot temperatures will dry out your morning water containers by mid- or late-afternoon.

Water between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. It will make all the difference in the world to vigorously growing plants.

With this workload, I do hope you will keep busy.

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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