5/23/14: In the garden this week


In my mini-forest, cranberry bush viburnum (V. trilobum) is in full bloom. It has large flower clusters with very large sterile flowers around the outside and tiny fertile flowers in the center, just like many sterile hybrids. This is a greatly underused viburnum. It makes bright shiny red berries that remain all winter–they must not be very nutritious for wildlife. The berries of most viburnums are snapped up the second they ripen in late summer. This is a large multitrunked shrub that does well in all soil types and in sun or shade. The reference books say that it prefers wet soil, but it does great in my sandy soil. Look for it and give it a try.

Here’s a closeup of those lovely flower clusters:


Memorial Day weekend was traditionally the time to plant tender crops such as beans, tomatoes, and squash, as well as annual flowers (which to me are just a waste of time and water). Lately, as the climate has warmed up, the conventional wisdom has said that Mother’s Day is now the time (we’re now in Zone 7, not Zone 6 as we used to be). Because of the very cool spring, Memorial Day seems safer this year–I planted basil last week and hope to get a chance to put in a few tomato plants next week.

So if you get a chance, in the midst of all your barbecuing and beer drinking and socializing here’s what you might accomplish in your garden:

plant warm weather crops such as basil, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, and beans, as well as annuals such as begonias.

IF you feel you must feed your lawn (which is completely unnecessary), apply a slow-acting organic fertilizer according to the package directions.

– If you are continuing to plant and divide and move perennials, be sure to keep them well-watered after you plant, especially if the weather turns warm and sunny. I generally stop moving and dividing plants around the end of May.

do not do any pruning except removal of dead or diseased material while woody plants are in active growth. They are using all their energy to accomplish the vital tasks of leafing out, blooming, and setting fruit. They have no energy to spare for making scar tissue. The next window of pruning time will come in midsummer. The exception is very early blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, which can be pruned once they’re fully leafed out. Prune early bloomers in late spring or early summer to allow them time to make next year’s flower buds.

– continue to pull up garlic mustard. However, because the plant has already set seed, DO NOT COMPOST IT. The temperature that develops in most home compost piles is not high enough to kill weed seeds. Discard the plants instead (or, if you are sure the plants haven’t been sprayed, eat them–there are many recipes for garlic mustard pesto and other delicacies on the web). This is one invasive you can really get rid of, since it’s a biennial. Pull it up this year and next year, and it’s gone from your property except for isolated seedlings from time to time.

Our lovely native geranium, Geranium  maculatum, is in full bloom right now. This has got to be the world’s easiest plant to grow, as long as you have a shady spot that’s not wet. It’s a true spring ephemeral, meaning that it emerges, blooms, sets seed, and goes dormant in spring. Plants like this need light in spring, so they prefer to live under trees that leaf out fairly late, as many native trees do (notice in the picture at the top of this post that the white ash tree in the background is just beginning to leaf out).


Enjoy the garden this holiday weekend!



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