Like it or not, summer is in full swing. Time to adjust those sprinklers to run either early or late. Every other day for 8 to 10 minutes works for most lawns. NEVER run your sprinklers in the middle of the day as most of it will just evaporate. Even worse is running them when it’s windy. Lots of cities enforce sprinklers running at the wrong time of day with a hefty fine.
Many plants, trees and shrubs need a haircut. That’s OK as long as you heed the golden rule meaning never cut more than 1/3 of a plant off at one time. To do more can put that plant or tree into shock.
Now that the roses have started to bloom, you may have noticed many of them sporting lots of small dark red blossoms. These are not what was originally planted. Most roses are grafted, meaning the top of the plant has been surgically joined to a rootstock. The tops of the plants have been winter killed and the only growth comes from below ground, thus the dark red blooms. These plants originally bloomed with a completely different flower, maybe pink, yellow, or white. Those pretty flowers will never be seen again as that top half of the plant is DEAD. Unless you are crazy about those small red blooms and wild canes, dig it out and toss it.
To prevent this same thing happening with new roses, be sure to give some attention to mulching those plants in early November of each year. This will help the tops to survive and they’ll bloom pretty the next spring.
The irises put on a beautiful show again this spring. Most were done by mid-June. Now that July is here, it’s time to think about any needed dividing or moving. Don’t wait until fall to do this chore as irises are very shallow rooted and need extra time to “root down” before cold weather comes.
Most irises will stop blooming if they’re not dug and divided every four or five years. Not enough sun will stop the flowers from forming too. These are easy perennials to grow as long as they have their basic needs: sunshine and good drainage. Sitting in low spots that stay wet will rot them.
Dig each clump with a garden fork or spade. Then pull the plants apart. Toss the part that has a bloom stalk showing it bloomed this summer. Then, separate the newer growth from the old stalk. Dig a hole with a narrow mound in the center. Sit the “fan” of leaves on top of this ridge and drape the roots down each side. (These roots can first be cut back to 3 or 4 inches which will make the job easier.) Cover with soil, making sure that the rhizome (fat root) is at or near ground level. Water in and you’re done! Unless you have poor soil, fertilizer isn’t necessary. If it is, dig in some blood meal or bulb fertilizer before planting.
Another chore that’s needed about now is to cut back those petunia plants. They usually have developed some long stalks by now. Cut these about halfway back, dig in a dose of fertilizer and you’re done. Be sure that fertilizer has a high middle number as that’s what produces flowers. Using one with only a high first number (nitrogen), will get you a lot of nice leaves, but no flowers. Petunias need to be dead headed all summer. This just means taking the dead flower off at its base. Be sure to go back far enough to get the part that will grow a seed pod. If this happens, it signals the plant that it’s done growing and won’t need to produce any more flowers.
Most foxgloves have finished blooming by now. Leave a few to go to seed if you want them to bloom in the future. Foxgloves are biennials, meaning it takes them two years to bloom and then they die. The first year, they produce a short rosette of leaves and the second year they will shoot up their tall flower stalks.
For those of you who have planted milkweed for the monarch butterflies, these are probably blooming now. With a little luck, the scarce monarchs will find them, lay their eggs and the next generation will be back, with more and more of them each year. You will have done your part in helping to keep the monarchs from extinction due to loss of habitat and Roundup spraying.
Thought for the day: Your mind is your garden, your thoughts are you seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column appears in the Press every other Sunday from early March to late October. Email: email@example.com