by Gardening Coach Susan Harris

Instead of those loooong lists of chores you could/should be doing this month, here's what I'm really doing.  It's a much shorter list.

Ornamental Plants

  • Cutting back the Salvia 'May Night" (above in full bloom) to remove the dead flowers and encourage a hoped-for rebloom.
  • Weeding a little every day or so, limiting myself to 30 minutes at a time to avoid backaches.  If you don't have time to do a thorough weeding, at least remove the great jungle-maker of the garden - vines.  Some of the ones I'm removing are already 10 feet long!  Then there are the weeds that want to be trees, and they too must go.  But really, all weeds steal moisture, light and nutrients from our more desirable plants, so why keep them around?
  • Watering!  In my garden that means daily watering of the containers, every other day for newly planted or transplanted shrubs and perennials, and keeping a close watch on everything else during this early-summer drought.  For more info, refer to my how-to-water basics from last week.
  • I've been applying deer spray to a few choice roses and conifers every three weeks, since the deer moved into my neighborhood a couple of years ago (to the sound of much cursing from local gardeners, including this one).  I'm alternating between Liquid Fence and Deer Stopper (which smells much better) and so far, so good.  I should mention that since I got rid of all my hostas and Sedum 'Autumn Joys' from the deer-infested part of the garden, there are far fewer plants to worry about.
  • Removed the ratty daffodil foliage (finally).  We've waited long enough, haven't we?  Sure, almost every garden writer under the sun insists that we wait til the foliage has browned and turned to complete mush, for fear of reducing the bloom in the following year, but a couple of months of looking at this sad foliage is plenty.  I even tie mine up if they're flopping on my groundcovers, and they still bloom just fine.
  • Every year I give my spireas a haircut by removing the faded flowers plus another 6 inches or so, and some of them will then rebloom.  This year I'm going a step farther and removing two-thirds of this Spirea nipponica ‘Snowmound’ next to my front door - because after 10 years in one spot it's finally gotten too big for its site (photo below, left).   Seen side by side with its former self, the newly shorn version looks awfully sad (and reminds me of those bad haircuts we've all cringed to be seen with), but I think it'll fluff out and regain its naturally graceful shape in no time.  (To see it in bloom, check the right column here.)

Vegetable Garden

  • Tomatoes grew vigorously during our recent heat spell, so I've installed their cages for support.
  • I'm applying a bit of Tomato-tone around my veggies every three weeks, though some experts say to wait until the  tomatoes begin to set fruit.
  • And finally, I've reluctantly thinned everything to the recommended spacing because every authority in the world tells us to do that or face greatly diminished performance for the entire season.  We must be brave and do as we're told.
  • Because my vegetables are all growing in containers, I'm watering daily when it's hot and every other day when it's cooler.
  • I no longer have a lawn but when I did, I mowed high (to at least 3") to retain moisture and reduce weeds.
  • And I left the grass clippings on the lawn to provide Nitrogen.

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