Tag Archives: pruning

June in the Garden-What to Do?

I didn’t get everything done in May that I had on my to-do list. Who ever does? Anyone who tends a garden knows how fast plants grow with the longer, warmer days and nights. So this month I continue to work on my own garden tasks as well as help others renovate their gardens to look great, support native pollinators, wildlife and habitat.

If you battle dandelions and don’t want to use chemical weed killers around pets and children, get out the white vinegar from the cupboard. On a hot sunny day spray straight white vinegar directly on the weed. This method will kill whatever it touches so direct the spray carefully. If the dandelion is in the lawn, wait a week, pour some water on the dead spot to dilute any lasting effects of the vinegar. Then poke a bunch a holes and drop in some grass seed. Sprinkle a bit of fertilizer where the seed is planted and keep the area moist. In three weeks you won’t remember where the dead spot was and the dandelion will be long gone.

Many plants, both vegetable and ornamental, are bothered by aphids and other sucking insects as well as foliage and flower eating bugs. From cucumber beetles, flea beetles, stink bugs, weevils, curculios to borers, the list of trouble makers is endless. To help deter them mix up some pepper spray in your kitchen.
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart warm tap water
Let stand I hour, strain and spray plants either in the morning or evening.

Pink rhododendron.

When the last flowers of your rhododendron, azalea, camellia, weigela and spirea have finished it’s time to prune them. If you prune too many months after flowering your risk removing the flower buds forming for next year. Basically it’s best to prune lightly each year to shape plants that have become too leggy. The rules apply to most plants. Prune to the next whorl or set of leaves. To increase rhododendron bloom next year, break off any faded flower trusses just above the growth buds being careful not to damage the new buds.

Swallowtail feeding on lemon

Apply the second fertilizer application for the year to your citrus and fruit trees. The final one for the season should be immediately after harvest. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around the drip line of the tree where feeder roots are located and scratch into the surface. Water in well. As with all fertilizers, make sure the trees are moist before you fertilize. Young trees in their first, second or third growing season should receive half the rate of established trees.

Another garden to-do this month includes summer pruning of wisteria. To increase flowering next spring and keep these vines under control cut new growth back to within 6″ of the main branch. If you want to extend the height or length of the vine, select some of the new streamer-like stems and tie them to a support in the direction you wish to train the plant.

Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’

Another maintenance tip is to shear spring blooming perennials to keep them full and compact. Candytuft, phlox subulata, aubrieta and other low growing perennials benefit if you cut off spent bloom and an inch or two of growth. Other perennials and shrubs that benefit from the same treatment to keep them compact are erysimum, lavender and Pink breath of heaven.

Early February – What to Do in the Garden

Blireana_budsGiven the strange weather we’ve had so far this winter I shouldn’t be surprised that many of the plants and trees are showing signs of life. I see white blossoms on Flowering pears and the huge pink flowers of Saucer magnolia starting to open. My Blireana flowering plum is covered with rosy buds ready to scent the garden with fragrance when they open. This mild weather signals the birds to eat as much as they can in preparation for the breeding season. The other morning an Anna’s hummingbird landed on the mulched ground to pick up a spider or insect. Hummingbirds seek out small insects during the breeding season as they contain the protein needed to start a family. Spring is afoot to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes.

Seemed I had so much time to complete my winter-dormant season gardening chores a month ago. But time has a way of getting away from you and now I need to do some of the more important tasks in the next few weeks. I’m not a “weekend warrior” type, preferring to enjoy working in my garden so I’ll just do a little here and there until I’ve gotten my list checked off. Here are my priorities.

I used to live in mostly shade where invasive and noxious weeds were not a Hedge_parsley_weedproblem. I now live in more sun in Bonny Doon and I am engaged in a great battle. There exists here an annual weed that produces seeds covered with tiny burrs. They stick to your socks, your shoelaces, your dog’s fur, your pants, your gardening gloves- anything that brushes against them and they are nearly impossible to remove. It’s called Hedge parsley or Torilis arvensis and now is the time to control it. If you have this weed on your property pay attention to the following advice. It applies to most any annual weed you might need to get rid of.

My goal is to prevent the production of seed in this obnoxious weed. Hedge parsley can set flower umbels as early as late spring so I still have some time to get a handle on it before the dreaded spiny balls appear to ruin my clothes and the dog’s fur. I prefer to use non-chemical control methods. These are more time consuming but life’s a trade off the way I see it.

In larger areas where I see this weed has germinated I can cut the taproot with a hoe or spade 1-2” below the surface. The seedlings look like small carrots or parsley now. Do not rototill or turn the soil. This will just bring up more buried seed.

I can also pull the seedlings while the soil is moist if they are growing next to or within a perennial or shrub. If some still persist when the flower stalks start to lengthen but well before they have gone to seed, I’ll mow or weed wack them down. I may have to do this a time or two but I’m determined that this noxious weed will not rule my life and prevent me from wandering on my hillside come fall. There’s a saying about weeds- “One year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding”.

I also might try a homemade natural weed herbicide in a few areas. The recipe is 1/2 gallon vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tablespoons dish soap. Worth a try on this annual weed. In a nutshell, weeding is one of my top priorities.

Later mid to late February I’ll have other tasks to add to my list. Right now I’ll concentrate on pruning roses, hydrangeas, fuchsias, fruit, nut and shade trees and deciduous vines like clematis. Cut back woody shrubs to stimulate lush new growth on plants like Mexican bush sage, artemisia and butterfly bush. You can cut back these plants close to the ground. Don’t use this approach on lavender or ceanothus, though. Prune them lightly after blooming.

I’ll also wait to prune back perennials that may have their new foliage damaged in a late frost. It’s been fairly mild at night lately but the next month or so can bring a cold snap.

I won’t prune spring flowering shrubs and trees like lilacs, flowering cherries, plums and crabapples, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela or spirea until after they flower.

As always spend as much time enjoying your garden as you can. Reward yourself for your efforts.

Happy New Year 2012

Another year has passed in the garden and this is what I've learned.

  • Have a plan for how you want to use your garden. This is as important as selecting the right plants for each garden room. Allowing some empty places for new plants, transplants or garden art, makes your garden your own. Add whatever  makes you happy and your heart to soar when you're in your garden.
  • Pay attention to the size that a plant will attain. This will save lots of headaches later.
  • Pruning is free therapy. What better way is there to feel good than to improve the life of a plant?
  • Your garden journal chronicles your life as well as what happens in the garden. Making frequent entries, no matter how short, will make you smile when you read it again at the end of the year. Journal your successes and failures, making notes of plants that performed well and ideas to try next year.
  • Enjoy a beverage of some kind often in your garden. That clean up or transplanting will be there tomorrow.
  • Weed regularly. The 20 minutes you spend every week or so pulling or hoeing will save hours of back bending work later.
  • You, fellow gardeners, are unique. I can't imagine any group of people more diverse and feisty and independent than gardeners. Yet we have such a connection. We love and are fascinated with nature. We find our deepest satisfaction in coaxing plants from the earth, in nurturing their growth. We are enduring pragmatists.
  • Edible gardening offers more than just vegetables and fruit trees that feed the body. They are better than a whole medicine cabinet of pills.
  • Accept a few holes in a plant: Unless it is being devoured, share a little with other creatures.

Happy New Year 2012 from The Mountain Gardener

 

Fall Gardening Tips

The recent rains will allow weed seeds to sprout which is just what you want if you’re planning a wildflower meadow.  The most common mistake when planting wildflower seeds is not getting rid of the existing weed and grass seeds that are in the soil and will germinate along with the wildflowers. These fast-growing weeds smother the slower growing wildflowers. Take time to eliminate the competition. Get rid of existing weeds when they sprout by cultivating the soil to a depth of not more than 1 inch. Deeper cultivation exposes more weed seeds that will germinate along with the wildflower seeds.

Don’t prune now, you’ll be happy to hear.   Fall is not a good time to prune.  Wounds heal slowly, leaving them more susceptible to disease.  As a general rule, don’t prune when leaves are falling or forming.  Wait to prune most trees until late in the dormant season or in late spring after leaves and needles form.  To avoid sap flow on birches and maples, prune after leaves mature. 

Other to-do’s for early fall-
Rake leaves- compost or put in your green can. If large leaves are left in place they will mat down and set up fungal problems come spring.
If you have a lawn give it a feeding low in nitrogen but higher in phosphorus and potassium ( the last two numbers on the box or bag ).
Clean up spent plant material. The early rain may have caused powdery mildew to take hold on your squash or late blight on the tomatoes. Do not compost these in your own compost pile.
Set out native plants. They’ll love the the winter rains to become established.
Bring in houseplants from outside around Halloween. Check for bugs first.
Cultivate around beds, trees, shrubs so rains can penetrate.  Add chicken manure around fruit trees so they are ready to go next spring.