Shield Plants From Insects
Floating row covers can help keep insects from reaching your veggie plants. Cover cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower to ward off the cabbage root maggot fly, among other pests. If you have leaf miner problems, cover early leafy crops such as spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard.
Remove Rose Suckers
On grafted roses, any growth that originates below the graft union -- called suckers -- will not be what you bought the rose to see. The foliage may look different and the flowers will be inferior to flowers on shoots growing above the graft. Clip off any sucker growth because it saps energy from the plant.
Deadhead for Reblooming
Many early bloomers, such as nepeta, veronica, delphiniums, and some perennial salvias such as 'May Night' will rebloom if you cut off the faded flowers. For bushy plants like nepeta and veronica and salvia, shearing with hedge trimmers is the easiest method.
Save the Sod
When removing sod to plant a new tree or shrub, flip the sod clumps over -- root side out -- and lay them down in a wide ring around the tree on top of the soil and they will form a berm to hold water and also add organic matter as the grass decomposes. Top them with your mulch of choice.
The best time to prune rhododendrons to improve flowering next year is right after they finish blooming. And the best tool is your hand. The dried flower clusters will snap off when you bend them, just be careful not to break off the tiny buds just below the old flowers, which are the future blooms.
Pot Up Your Containers
Though nights are still chilly, the days are warm enough to fill your windowboxes, large pots, and hay racks with most annuals -- coleus, sweet potato vines, optic grass, snapdragons, Persian shield, salvia, nasturtiums, elephant ears, and geraniums. Annual vinca, a.k.a. periwinkle, thrives in summer heat so wait to plant those sun- AND part-shade tolerant beauties till temps hover at 70 degrees or more. Impatiens, too, will do better planted in warmer weather -- at least two weeks after last frost.
Cover Up Veggie and Flower Seedlings
Floating row covers allow sunlight, water, and air to reach tender seedlings as well as larger veggies and annual flowers. This light, polyester fiber fabric protects seedlings and young plants from chill and wind. It also is a toxic-free barrier to insects! Row covers easily "float" over plants for weather protection. To keep insects at bay, they are best propped over bamboo or metal hoops and secured at the sides with metal staples.
Divide Ornamental Grasses and Autumn-Blooming Perennials
Before ornamental grasses fill out and perennial sunflowers take over half the garden, feel free to divide the clumps ... and share the bounty. Aster, monarda, and stachys are easily divided by pulling clumps apart by hand or with a sharp spade or knife. Dense clumps of ornamental grasses, perennial sunflowers, hostas, daylilies, shasta daisies, and border phlox are best lifted from the ground, then separated into manageable sections with spade and spading fork.
Pinch and Prune to Control Floppy Perennials
Peeved at overgrown perovskia (Russian sage)? Tired of leggy border phlox? Pinching and pruning select perennials now will encourage extended flowering and more compact plants. Cut back or pinch perovskia and monarda by half (clip 12-inch stems to 6 inches) for fuller, shorter plants. For longer flowering and shorter, denser stands of Phlox paniculata, cut back a third of the plants in mid-May and a different third in early June. This will stagger flowering times.
Wait for Green Before Pruning Lavender
Be patient with your lavender. Give it time to wake up to spring. Woody growth is slow to break on these subshrubs. Wait for new, green leaves to sprout on woody stems before getting out the pruners. Even then, cut off only the dead tips! Green stems are alive; dead stems are brown or tan inside.
Continue Planting Summer Bulbs
There's still plenty of time to plant and enjoy tender summer bulbs, such as gladiolus, cannas, caladiums, elephant's ears, tuberose, tuberous begonias, and others. By planting gladiolus every two to four weeks, you can have a continuous supply of flowers to cut for bouquets. Most of these bulbs grow best in full sun or light shade, but caladium, elephant's ears, and tuberous begonias need shade.
Give the Lawn a Boost
Fertilize the lawn with a slow-release, low-phosphorus fertilizer. Set mower at 3 inches and keep the blade sharp. If possible, use a mulching mower that returns clippings to the lawn. This nourishes the turf and relieves the clipping-removal hassle.
Prune and Fertilize Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Rhododendrons and azaleas will have the best shape and flowering if the faded flower trusses are pruned or snapped off when flowering ends. Be careful, however, as next year's buds are right below. Feed the plants with a fertilizer made for acid-loving plants. Weed around the plants, then mulch with pine needles or oak leaves. Rhododendrons and azaleas have shallow roots and need soil that is kept evenly moist.
Weed, Fertilize, Mulch
This is the gardener's mantra -- always on the top of the task list. Keep all beds and borders weeded, catching weeds while they're young. Fertilize regularly, then top off with a layer of organic mulch, preferably compost or hardwood bark. Consider using corn gluten meal as a safe pre-emergent herbicide. Never put fresh mulch on top of last year's without first loosening the surface; otherwise an impervious layer can develop.
Harvest and Plant
Continue harvesting and enjoying lettuce and other greens, radishes, peas, turnips, cilantro, cabbage, broccoli, and other cool-season crops. As these wind down, remove and compost them, fertilize, and replant with a fast-growing summer crop, such as bush beans. There's still plenty of time to get main-season crops planted. To avoid potato beetles, wait until early July to plant.
Mulch Around Trees
Maintain a circle of mulch around trees and shrubs. It will not only help control weeds and conserve moisture, but will also prevent damage from lawn mowers and string trimmers. The mulch should be just an inch or two deep so roots don't smother. Keep it a few inches away from trunks, too.
Pinch Back Annuals
To promote bushiness, pinch back the growing tips of shrubby plants, such as zinnias, petunias, coleus, cosmos, chrysanthemums, asters, and basil, to promote bushiness and improve flowering. Removing the tips of shoots encourages lateral branches to develop.
Make Successive Plantings
As the weather warms up, cool-weather crops like spinach, lettuce, and radishes will start to bolt or turn bitter. Plan to pull the plants and replace them with fast-growing, heat-loving crops like chard, bush beans, and basil. Come fall, you can go back to the cool-weather crops.
Shade Air Conditioners
Plant shrubs or trees to shade your window air conditioners. You'll dramatically improve the efficiency of the units and reduce their energy consumption. Evaluate your overall landscape to determine what plants are best. You may want a small deciduous tree on the southeast side, for example, and an evergreen on the southwest to block an unpleasant view.
Bring Amaryllis Outdoors
If you are trying to save an amaryllis in the hopes of it reblooming next winter, you can bring it outdoors for the summer. Place it in a shaded spot and water and fertilize it, allowing it to grow all summer. Before the first frost, bring it indoors and allow the soil to dry to induce dormancy for about two months. Then begin watering again and you should have blooms in another few months.
Wean Spring Transplants Off the Water Hose
Begin to wean those spring transplants off the frequent watering schedule used to help them get started. Deep, infrequent soakings will help them develop an extensive root system and be more resilient in the summer heat. This is also true of newly established sod.
Annual and perennial flowers can start to get floppy or leggy about this time of the season. Wait until they have completed a flush of blooms, then use shears to cut them back by about a third. This will encourage side shoots, resulting in bushier plants and more flower buds. Repeat this process through the summer to keep them beautiful and to bring on more cycles of bloom. Fertilize lightly after each shearing.
Tidy Up Spring Bulbs
Spring bulbs have just about completed their period of replenishing their food reserves to get ready for next year. Allow the foliage to turn yellow before removing it. If you want to rework the beds and need to remove the bulbs, you can do so when the foliage dies back. Dig up the bulbs and allow them a week or so to dry in a shady location. Then cut away any roots or foliage and store them in a cool, dry place for fall planting.
Keep an Eye Out for Scale
Watch for scale on fruit trees and many woody ornamental plants. These pests are difficult to control and often require both dormant-season treatment and periodic summer sprays of an appropriate product to prevent outbreaks. The parts of plants where you noticed scale infestations in the winter should be watched and retreated as needed with carefully directed summer or horticultural oil sprays, not dormant oil.
Don't Drown Your Plants
Unless a plant is designed to grow in a bog, be careful not to overwater. Many of our southern plants are able to take the saunas of summer as long as their roots are moist but well aerated. Soggy soil + hot weather is the kiss of death for many plants. Give them a good soaking and then allow the soil to dry a bit before watering them again. As the soil dries and water moves out, air is pulled into the soil to replace it.
Coastal and Tropical South
Mow and Weed to Control Fleas
Even if you treat pets regularly for fleas, the nasty biters are still plentiful. If the animals spend any time outdoors, mow and weed their pen or run area to reduce flea habitat and improve the effectiveness of controls. If fleas are a problem, you must treat the animal, your house, and the outdoors, too.
Groom Houseplants Summering Outdoors
Take time now to look closely at houseplants spending the summer on porches and patios. Remove dead leaves and flowers, take cuttings, and look for mealybugs. These sticky white masses live where leaves meet stems, dehydrating and disfiguring the host. Use rubbing alcohol on a swab and paint well.
Battling Lawn Weeds
Spring weeds have matured into stickers, and the new crop of dollar weed looks formidable. Dig out what you can, especially near other desirable shrubs or trees and spot-treat others.
Shop for Daylilies
Now's the time to buy and plant daylilies because you can see them in bloom. Daylily growers large and small advertise open gardens this month where you can fall in love with colors and flower shapes. You can purchase your favorites and plant them right away in sunny, well-drained beds.
Use Jute for Plant Ties
Plant stems are more delicate than they look. Wire, nylon string, and similar materials can girdle roses, dahlia stems, tomatoes, and young trees staked against the wind. Plastic coating can heat up excessively, so rely on jute string for natural resilience. Tie strings loosely around stems, then tie tightly to the support.
Northern & Central Midwest
Watch for Tent Caterpillars
Watch fruit trees, ornamental crab apples, and wild cherries for clusters of small, fuzzy eastern tent caterpillars. Use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) when the caterpillars are still quite young. Prune out limbs that become covered with webbing during the day when the caterpillars are inside the web (they come out to feed at night).
Harden Off Frost-Tender Plants
Begin hardening off all frost-tender plants. Vegetables, herbs, perennials, annuals, and summer-flowering bulbs can all be brought outdoors. Expose them gradually to sun and wind until they have hardened, but be ready to scoot them back indoors in case the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Keep an Eye Out for Iris Borer
Watch for iris borer. You will see tunnels in new foliage that look as if they are water-soaked. Pinch the leaf to kill the borer. If borer infestations are bad, look for the biological control made of nematodes that feed on the borers once they enter the tubers. Dig and destroy any diseased tubers.
Plant Warm-Season Crops
Sow seeds of warm-season plants at the end of the month, including beans, okra, pumpkins, sweet corn, and watermelon. Planting only partial rows of beans and sweet corn will allow you to make successive plantings every week or two. Sweet corn should be planted in double rows or blocks for good pollination.
Decide how you will train your strawberries and their runners, and then plant and mulch the plants. Pinch off flowers for this year to strengthen them and cause them to make healthy runners and daughter plants. Keep well watered and watch for aphids and mites.
Western Mountains and High Plains
Keep Birds From Eating Seedlings
If sparrows and blackbirds are eating the emerging vegetable seedlings during the wee hours of the morning, it's time to place netting over the row of lettuce, carrots, beets, or anything else. Support the netting with a couple of wooden stakes to keep it above the foliage.
Check for Aphids
Inspect the new, emerging growth on ash trees and others. It's the season when tiny, soft-bodied aphids will be hatching and feeding on the tender new growth. Hose down clusters of aphids that you can reach or use a soapy water solution. Spray when temperatures are cool in the early morning or early evening.
Watch for Hopping Lawn Invaders
Those tiny, wedge-shaped bugs that hop around your ankles when you walk across the lawn are not only a nuisance, they can cause some damage. Known as leaf hoppers, high populations will sap the chlorophyll out of the leaf blades. This will give the lawn a brownish yellow look. Spray with a homemade soap mixture or insecticidal soap. Read and follow label directions.
Cut Suckers From Tree Trunks
Take a few extra minutes to remove any fast-growing suckers that start to emerge at the base of fruit, shade, and ornamental trees. Some trees are more prone to sucker growth than others. A quick snip now will get rid of them before they become taller and thicker. Cut them down to ground level.
Prevent Fruit Pests
Growing organic fruit is not difficult if you start to control pests early. Apply an insect barrier containing the super-fine kaolin clay (Surround), which creates a white, protective barrier on fruit tree foliage and young fruit to repel most pests. Set out codling moth traps and pheromone lures for apples and pear pests. Use red sticky balls to trap apple maggot flies. Hang them in June and leave them out until harvest to reduce pest outbreaks.
Maintain consistent soil moisture and reapply organic mulch if needed. Pick tomatoes as soon as they ripen or birds and insects may eat them for you.
Enjoy Saguaro Blooms
The Sonoran Desert's mighty saguaro cacti are coming into bloom with their creamy white flowers. Drive or hike into the desert to enjoy their beauty, as well as the many pollinators that visit them.
Plant Warm-Season Flowers
Flowers that take heat and sun while offering a long period of bloom include angelita daisy, black-eyed Susan, celosia, chocolate flower, coreopsis, cosmos, desert marigold, four o'clock, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, impatiens, lisianthus, Mexican hat, Mexican sunflower, marigold, portulaca, rock penstemon, salvia, sunflower, vinca, and zinnia.
Plant Warm-Season Vegetables
Sow seeds for lima or snap beans, black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, jicama, and okra. Transplant sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Dig in 4 to 6 inches of organic matter before planting.
Check Irrigation Systems
Examine emitters, bubblers, and pop-up sprays to make sure they are in good working order. If lawn sprinklers overspray onto sidewalks and streets, adjust their positioning to prevent wasting water. Program automatic timers to water more frequently as temperatures increase. The amount of water applied stays the same throughout the year; it's the frequency that changes with the seasons.
Plant Warm-Season Veggies
It's finally warm enough in coastal areas to plant warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, and peppers; and herbs such as basil and cilantro. To get the quickest, most productive crop, plant in well-draining soil in the sunniest spot possible.
Install a drip irrigation system in your vegetable or flower garden to help conserve water. Drip irrigation eliminates water loss from spray evaporation and surface evaporation. You can also water more often without causing fungus to grow on the leaves of your plants.
Apply Organic Mulch
Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around trees, shrubs, and perennials to help retain soil moisture and prevent weeds from cropping up. Organic mulch could include straw, bark, shredded leaves, or compost. Keep the mulch a few inches away from trunks and main stems to prevent crown rot.
Prevent Powdery Mildew Disease
To avoid powdery mildew disease on roses and apple trees, thin branches for better air circulation. Keep water off the leaves of begonias and zinnias and try not to water late in the day. Pick diseased leaves off of any plants.
Check for Insects
Check young plants for insects. In particular, watch for cabbage worms on cole crops, Mexican bean beetles on beans, and flea beetles on lettuce, radish, and potato foliage. Remove insect pests by hand or put a barrier screen such as a floating row cover over new plants.
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Care for Wild Oaks
If you have old wild oak trees on your property, it's important not to raise or lower the soil grade between the trunk and the drip line. Never water within 4 inches of the trunk or allow water to stand in the area under the canopy of leaves. Keep old trees groomed by removing dead limbs and branches. Remember, no irrigation during the summer for mature oaks.
Fertilize Cymbidium Orchids
Make the fertilizer switch on your cymbidium orchids now. We are blessed with the ideal climate for these exotic that are native to the mountains of Asia. To promote the best bloom, plants need a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 6-30-30 or 6-25-25 until the buds set. Apply the fertilizer half strength every week until the end of the year. It's best if the potting bark is damp before fertilizing.
Keep Ivy Out of Trees
If ivy is growing near the base of trees, keep it on the ground where it belongs and do not allow it to climb up the trunk. As the tree grows and expands in girth, the stems of the ivy also expand, eventually killing the tree by strangulation. Cut or pull any ivy out of trees and prevent future invasions by constant vigilance.
Plant Tuberous Begonias
Amend a shady garden bed with oak leaf compost to a depth of 8 inches. Water well and set tuberous begonias, concave side up, up to their shoulders in the prepared soil. Protect from snails and slugs until new growth reaches 4 inches. At that time, begin fertilizing every other week with half strength 22-14-14 to promote leafy top growth. In four weeks, switch to 15-30-15 to promote bud development. Tuberous begonias don't need nearly as much water as you would imagine -- once a week is more than enough. Apply water to the base of the plant near the tuber and never on the foliage to prevent powdery mildew.
Fertilize Shade-Loving Plants
Shade-loving plants such as columbines, hostas, coleus, and impatiens don't use water as quickly as plants grown in full sun. They also don't use fertilizer at the same rate. A good way to fertilize plants growing in the shade is to use a slow-release fertilizer applied directly into the soil surrounding the plant. The fertilizer will slowly dissolve whenever the plants are watered -- for up to three months.
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Plant Tender Trees and Vines
Plant citrus and other tender trees, and vines like bougainvillea. Mix the potting mix in the container with soil from the new hole so there's no sharp transition zone for the new roots to deal with. Don't add organic matter to the planting hole; instead, use it as mulch on top of the soil to hold in moisture with fewer waterings.
Feed Established Fruit Trees
Feed established fruit trees now that they're actively growing. This will give them the energy to provide a good leaf canopy.
Plant Drought-Tolerant Color
Blooming shrubs that need little water when they're mature include abelia, bottlebrush, broom, ceanothus, cotoneaster, crape myrtle, grevillea, oleander, pittosporum, pyracantha, raphiolepis, rockrose (cistus), and strawberry bush.
Include Fragrant Shrubs
For fragrance wafting through the garden year after year, plant citrus, gardenias, jasmine, mock orange, and roses.
Pinch Mums for More Fall Color
For bushier mums with lots of blooms this fall, pinch back stems after each 6 inches of growth. Continue pinching until July, then let growth develop naturally, staking as desired. If they're next to a wall, consider letting them trail over the edge like a waterfall!
"All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the
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