» Archive for June, 2011

Plant a Great Garden!

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Plant a Great Garden!

It’s not too late to plant a great garden. If the weather and circumstances have prevented you from getting your summer garden planted, take heart: there’s still time to do that.
 While it is true that fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants need to be set out now, many summer vegetables will grow even more quickly from seed planted in early summer when the soil has warmed up and is teeming with life. You’ll be surprised how fast seeds will germinate and explode with growth when planted now.

Plant seeds of beans to grow up a teepee; plant a hill of summer squash or cucumbers by poking half a dozen seeds in a circle; and plant a row of beets, radishes or carrots. Start a crop of salad greens in a spot with bright light but out of the full, hot sun. You’ll get a variety of lettuces and other tasty greens to spice up summer salads.

You can plant heat- and sun-loving herbs like basil, oregano, thyme and sage from seed but keep the seed beds well moistened as they germinate and begin to grow. Plant cilantro and parsley where they get shade from the hot sun. You can also set out starts of many kinds of herbs.
 Even if you already have beans, squash, chard, carrots and basil in the ground, June is a fine time to start a second crop to have ready for a late summer harvest when the first crops of these staples have finished up.

In July you can start seeds for fall crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. Toward the end of summer, start seeds of spinach, Swiss chard, lettuces, radishes and Asian greens like pak choi.

You still have time to plant flowers, too! Petunias, marigolds, cosmos, impatiens, zinnias and dianthus are just beginning to bloom and will continue through the long hot days of summer. Alyssum, lobelia and moss rose are attractive border plants that bloom continuously up to frost. They all grow very quickly in warm weather, so there’s still plenty of time to fill up your flower beds and containers with colorful summer annuals.

June and July are also good times to start seeds or set out plants of perennials to bloom next spring. Most perennials need to establish themselves for a season before they are ready to bloom. By planting lupines, Shasta daisies, Iberis, blanket flowers and forget-me-nots this summer, you’ll be able to enjoy their lovely flowers next spring and summer.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re getting a late start this year. The ground is warm now and it’s time to plant a great garden!

Lovely Lavenders

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Set out zinnias, cosmos, impatiens and begonias for lots of colorful flowers all summer long.

Lovely Lavenders

Lavenders are a favorite group of ornamental herbs native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. They are sun loving plants that thrive in hot weather and grow well in California. Their gray or gray-green, aromatic foliage contrasts nicely with the lavender or purple flowers.

Known and admired for their fragrance, lavenders are used in dried or fresh bouquets, potpourri, lavender wands, oil and perfume. Most lavenders dry beautifully for bouquets and attract bees and butterflies. They make fine landscape plants in perennial gardens or mixed with other Mediterranean plants, like rockrose, sunrose, catmint, rosemary and germander.

English lavender is the best known for the fragrance of its flowers. Its oil is used in perfume, potpourri and soaps and aromatherapists use it for its healing qualities. The whole bush, however, is fragrant and it make an attractive 3-4 foot shrub.

Cultivars come in a wider range of colors than other lavenders: white, pink, the familiar blue ‘Munstead’, and the darker purple ‘Hidcote’. They’re particularly suited to small flower beds and containers, growing to about 18 inches tall.

When French lavender growers crossed English lavender with the longer-stemmed spike lavender, they created hybrids which were larger and produced more oil. These are known as lavandins and they now dominate the world’s lavender oil industry. They also are the best plants for lavender wands because of their long stems. ‘Provence’, ‘Grosso’, and ‘Fred Boutin’ are three fine varieties.

The Spanish lavenders are the show-stoppers in the garden. They are the first to bloom in the spring and their flower petals look like “rabbit’s ears” rising above the large, dark purple spikes. They make small evergreen shrubs about 30 inches tall and grow very well in containers. Cut off faded flowers to keep new blooms coming.

French lavenders are evergreen shrubs to 30 inches tall and 6 feet wide. They have condensed spikes of purple flowers that bloom for many months. Their leaves are indented and green or gray depending on variety. Plants are hardy to about 20°F.

Give lavenders an open exposure with as much sunlight as possible to promote flowers. They require well-drained soil and hate wet feet in the winter. In the summer, established plants need little water. Lavenders in the ground require no fertilizing, but container plants should be given a light feeding in the spring. Enjoy lavenders in pots or in the landscape.

Tomato Troubles

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • The “Wave” petunias make wonderful hanging baskets for full sun. They come in purple, bright pink, reddish-purple and pale “misty lilac.” They can also be used for a colorful summer ground cover.
    • Hang codling moth traps in apple trees to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year. Be sure to use a fresh pheromone (attractant).
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Thin fruit trees now while fruits are still small. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. On Asian pears leave 1 fruit per spur.

Tomato Troubles

As this very unseasonable weather continues into the first week of June, you may be finding that your tomato plants are showing signs of distress.

Tomatoes are warm season vegetables and they do not like damp, cool soil. They are injured at 41° F, and the ideal temperature range for tomatoes is 65 to 70°F. However, tomatoes will give acceptable results when the temperature ranges from 50°F at night to 85°F during the day.

The combination of wet soil or compost and cold temperatures, give tomato plants a hard time. If they are subjected to frost, it can damage the cell walls of growing tomato plants and may cause wilting and death of the plants.

Phosphorus deficiency is also a problem with cold weather on young tomato plants. Tomatoes need phosphorus for healthy development. Phosphorus is abundant in our soils but may be unavailable to the plant when the soil is too cold. When this happens, the leaves of tomato plants may turn purple and have purple veins.

Once the soil warms up, phosphorus is available to the plants and the problem corrects itself. You can use plastic mulch to warm the soil or other types of row covers or “Walls-O-Water”. Wet and cold soil makes it difficult for plants to absorb nutrients, so they may turn yellowish as well.

Tomato plants do not like rain on their leaves – especially when the weather is cold. The combination of low temperatures and wet conditions will cause problems such as fungal disease including tomato blight, or at the very least, lower the resistance of your plants so that they are vulnerable to many of the problems that cause poor results.

Most of the non-pest problems caused by cold, wet weather include rolled and deformed leaves, especially the lower ones, and yellowing leaves with reddish veins.

Cold weather will often stunt tomato plants, as well as other summer vegetable plants, so keep them indoors when it is wet during the day. Set plants outdoors on warm days but don’t leave them out at night until the weather warms up a bit.

Once warm weather arrive, many of these problems will correct themselves. So don’t despair, but do take care of your plants so they will be ready to go when the weather straightens out.