6/19/15: In the garden this week

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Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) blooms enthusiastically in June.

We’ve finally had a decent amount of rain, and the garden is showing its gratitude by flaunting its early summer colors. In the past week, milkweeds, beebalm, native verbena, and new jersey tea have all come into full bloom, as early bloomers like Penstemon and columbine continue their display. Bird activity has switched over from mating to child rearing: nests are everywhere, and I surprised catbird fledgings (who are at least as noisy as their parents) four times this week.

Spring planting is finally winding down. It’s time to concentrate on the vegetable garden, to do some weeding, and to enjoy summer’s beauty.

water new plantings: we got over an inch of rain this past week, so no watering is needed now, but keep watching. Any week in which we receive less than an inch of rain, water all woody plants installed this spring or last season. Perennials planted last spring should be well-established, but those planted last fall and this spring need supplemental watering during dry spells. How do you know when we’ve received an inch of rain? I use a highly sophisticated rain gauge–an old yogurt container placed on the ground among the plants. A tunafish or catfood can works equally well.

finish harvesting early greens such as lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, and mesclun mix, plus peas and radishes. As greens bolt, or go to seed, pull the plants and plant something else. A row of beans, perhaps?

practice good horticulture with warm-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, beans, corn, and cucumbers: Monitor for insect eggs and larvae and remove them before infestations become serious. Throw out badly infested or diseased plants to prevent the spread of disease (do not compost diseased or infested plant material). Look at this post, this one, and this one for basic information about growing tomatoes.

— it’s not too late to extend a garden bed or start a new one, and it’s always a great idea to eliminate some lawn: spread a 3-4 inch layer of cedar or hemlock bark mulch over the area to kill the grass. Then plant right through the dying grass and mulch.

— follow a sustainable lawn care regimen: if you feel you must fertilize your lawn, best practice is to give it no more than two applications of slow-release organic fertilizer each season, around Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s too late now to reseed bare areas: wait until early fall. Better still, if you have a place where grass won’t grow, plant something that will, like shade-loving native perennials. Let the grass grow at least 3″ tall for maximum photosynthesis. Lawns do not need water now (or ever), but if you do water, do it infrequently and deeply to encourage deep root growth. One inch of water once a week is much better than a few minutes each day. But remember: the more you water, the more you’ll have to mow!

It’s father’s day, so don’t make dad do any chores! Enjoy the garden this weekend.

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Northern hairstreaks (?) mating on a leaf of Rudbeckia subtomentosa.

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