6/26/15: In the garden this week

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Hoary verbain (Verbena stricta) has been in my garden for three years now, and I enjoy it more and more.

Some parts of our area got hit by thunderstorms this week, but all the rain passed us by, so the soil is pretty dry once again. I’m hoping for rain this weekend and early next week to refresh my new plantings. Established perennials and shrubs are doing fine, however. Milkweed, bergamot, and coreopsis are in full bloom; rudbeckia is showing buds. Native grasses are lush and full.
There’s really not much to do in the garden in midsummer except enjoy the results of your springtime labor. Attention turns primarily to the vegetable garden:
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?

water new plantings: 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.

— 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!

Most of all this week, take time to enjoy the garden.

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Another new plant in my garden, but I’m not so sure about this one: I looked for Monarda didyma, red bergamot, for years, and finally settled for this cultivar, ‘Jacob Kline.” The color is great, but the flowers are not entirely satisfactory.

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Spending time in the garden makes us all happy.

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