A GROWING CONCERN: With summer nearly here, what’s left to do?

CAN YOU BELIEVE it? June already!

With the passing of Labor Day weekend and a rash of sunburn, summer is unofficially here.

Your flowers are growing, vegetables are in production, roses are blooming, bulbs are all but spent, so what’s a gardener here on the Peninsula to do?

I’m going to tell you in a June 13-plus to-do list:

1. De-sucker: Your fruit trees and ornamental grafted woody plants produce both ground- and branch-level suckers.

Remove them immediately because they suck out nutrients, water and aesthetic value.

On trees, another labor-saving trick is every couple of weeks with a gloved hand, rub away new suckers before they require laborious prune work a few weeks later.

2. Bad-plant watch: Right now, today, look over the entire yard. If a plant looks sickly, diseased or poor, remove it and plant a new one.

Selection is still fairly good in most outlets, and replacements are not only easy to find but are available in comparable sizes.

3. Cultivate: This is the oldest time-honored trick of the trade.

Soil breathes, as do roots and the plethora of organisms living in the soil.

Water, which is essential to all of this, must have free access to enter the soil.

One barrier is the crust on top of your growing medium created by gravity and moisture.

Cultivate lightly every few weeks to not only knock down weeds but to let the water and air in.

4. Watering: Summer sun is intensely hot. Your plants and their roots are growing fast. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

After watering, your soil should be wet to the fingertip up to a good 5 to 6 inches deep.

To be sure, use your hand or a soil probe and plunge deep into the soil.

Always let the soil dry well before soaking again. This trains the roots to go down after the moisture, not under the surface.

On irrigation systems, the everyday or every-other-day cycle gives the area enough water (1 to 2 inches) and time to soak down and let dry and repeat.

Watering is one of the most difficult summer jobs, so keep in tune with your soils.

5. Check spray head and cycles: As plants grow, they have a tendency to block irrigation heads. Recheck your spray patterns today.

Are all your plants getting wet? If not, you could prune away blocks and adjust or raise the spray head.

Also, don’t forget to check your time settings.

6. The lawn: First, your lawn mower.

Take off the blade, sharpen it, change the oil, tighten all the nuts and bolts, clean or change the filters and give it a good cleaning.

Next, raise the mower to its 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.

Don’t forget a light fertilizer for your lawn every month or two.

7. Deadhead: As your rhodies fade, the lilacs de-scent and wisteria loses its wonderment, be sure to cut away the old blooms.

This is preferable if you want healthy, good-growing, aesthetically pleasing plants with double the blooms next year.

It is vital to do this immediately after plants are done blooming, not two or three months later.

8. Cultivate: 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 the plants can take.

Within weeks, new weeds grow and freshly tilled soil severely compacts and crusts over, so give your soils a bimonthly massage.

9. Re-veggie your garden: Just keep piling on seed or plant starters for an abundant harvest.

Sow radishes, greens, spinach, lettuce and beans every couple of weeks from now through August.

Start or plant new broccoli, cabbage, kale, beets, kohlrabi and cauliflower so your harvest doesn’t dry up too soon.

Right now should be your maximum point of planting, harvesting, tilling and tending.

10. Kill the beasts: 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 entire yard with a search-and-destroy mission.

11. De-stamen: The life or your lily blossoms will be extended and their look drastically improved if you remove the stamen as soon as the bud starts to open.

With the stamen gone, the pollen will not stain the bloom, and the flower will try to hang on as long as possible in order to get pollinated, which now it cannot.

This is a win-win situation, so make the this a mandatory chore.

12. Then feed the beasts: 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 up by now.

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

13. Stake ’em up: Many of your beautiful flowers such as delphiniums or peonies, though gorgeous, will eventually fall over and break apart.

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

Watch your future dahlias as well.

Weekly check your “supported” plants.

________

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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