7/3/15: In the garden this week

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Part of a sunny border. As Monarda and milkweeds begin to fade, Rudbeckias, sunflowers, and Boltonia will take over.

The first Rudbeckias are beginning to bloom: it’s summer! In my garden, Rudbeckia subtomentosa begins the show, usually around July 4, and continues blooming until September. Only a few are just opening, so they’re hard to see in the photo. Next week the predominant color in this same view will be yellow.

The shade garden presents quite a different show:

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This garden gets morning sun and is in deep shade by mid- afternoon. Sweet joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) grows 8′ tall with only half a day of sun. Goldenrod will soon take over.

Wildlife has been abundant this week: we’ve seen many butterfies, including Peck’s and silver-spotted skippers, red admirals, monarchs, and small brown ones that fly so fast we can’t get a good look at them; hummingbirds, flickers and red-headed woodpeckers (a pair of each), besides the usual suspects: mockingbirds, catbirds, robins. If you’d like to go a bit farther afield to search for wildlife, today’s NY Times has a great article on city critters. And by the way, it’s an open secret that NYC is absolutely delightful in summer. New Yorkers head for the beach; museums, theaters, and restaurants are uncrowded. Check out the High Line at dusk. It’s magical.

This long weekend is perfect for hanging out in the garden while the burgers cook on the grill. In between beers, you might want to think about these fairly simple tasks:

water new plantings: we got about 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). Cucumber vines are showing signs of wilt: remove them immediately to prevent the spread of this fungal disease. 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. In the fall, you’ll be able to 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!

While we’re relaxing in the garden, predatory insects are taking care of it for us. If I look carefully at my Rudbeckia plants, each tall spike is capped by a daddy long legs. I don’t see any pests, but there must be some. Thanks, guys!

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Happy Fourth!

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