12 late-june to-do’s (since nothing lasts)
N OTHING LASTS, I NOTED BRIEFLY in last week’s email newsletter, but I wish to take that back: Nothing lasts except the list of chores, the presence of weeds, and this year, the rain (if the forecast is right today, and I get another 2 inches, that will be almost 7 in two weeks). Let’s get on with it, I guess; put on your rainsuits and galoshes and here we go, working through a dozen things that I think need doing here:
Taking Inventory, Then Resowing: Timing is everything, but getting your timing right takes some do-overs sometimes. I have dill all ready to eat right now…but alas, no cucumbers yet. When the cukes are ready, the dill will be spent. Time to sow more, so the two converge into refrigerator pickles, a hand-me-down recipe from a long-ago gardening friend’s family. Compare the life cycles of your intended duets: Will your tomatoes and basil overlap, for instance, or is there cilantro for the upcoming pepper and tomatillo harvest for that hoped-for salsa?
Hatchet Jobs: The garden gets its biggest haircut in early July here, normally, but with more than 5 inches of rain the last week things that might have held up another two weeks are looking tired and trampled. Off with their heads. Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’ (perhaps my favorite of all the perennial geraniums) was the first sacrificial lamb (above; looks awful, doesn’t it?, but it cannot be avoided). The biggest bleeding hearts look a wreck (‘Gold Heart’ thankfully still looks OK), and down they’re coming, too. Cast a critical eye around the place and get trimming.
Top Up the Mulch: After cutbacks, when areas are more accessible, is perfect timing for a little more mulch where it has worn away or decomposed. I usually clean up the edges now, too, while I’m at it.
Daffodil Debris Be Gone: The first of many drifts of daffodils have ripened their foliage thoroughly, meaning it’s starting to yellow and fall down. Time to mow these areas, which I always do between now and July 4th. If the spot doesn’t look messy, and I want the island of long grass (around a tree, for instance), I just tease out the bulk of the drooping daffodil foliage and leave the grass be. Other bulbs get a cleanup from faded foliage now, too.
Mowing, and Then Mowing Again: Never let the grass grow so long between mowings that you have to remove more than one-third of the blade height in any single cutting. For me that means twice-weekly mowing here in moist times of year like we’ve been having, even though I don’t feed my turf (which would push, egads, even more growth). Missed the one-third limit? Get out the rake, and compost the raked-up clippings (or use them as mulch).
Weigela and Barberry Pruning: Weigelas are among those shrubs you don’t just pick at with the pruners, or they just get worse-looking. Ditto barberries. If they are in need of reshaping, as they are inclined to get even without any pruning misfires on the gardener’s part, best to cut out the oldest branches at the base just after flowering, like now. If they’re really a total wreck: to 12 inches from the ground they go, for a total rejuvenation. (Pruning something else? Maybe the FAQ page will help.)
Shade for the Salad: Hot days (which may never arrive this summer here, but let’s pretend they’re coming) mean havoc for many salad greens. Plant your succession rows on the shady side of tomatoes or something else that will offer them protection, or drape them with shade cloth, above (not a heavyweight cloth that you’d use for early spring coziness, but a thin barrier or better yet black woven fabric meant for the job).
Pick the Peas, and Pick Some More: Biggest mistake after all that work of growing peas and beans, in particular, is to skip a day of picking, causing the plants to cease flowering sooner and therefore producing less pods. I’ll plant another short row of bush beans while I am at it.
Hill Up the Potatoes (Round 2, Perhaps): Whether you use straw or compost or soil, the potatoes need hilling up (to cool the soil, and create space for the potato crop to develop (as all the tubers will form at the same level as the seed potato you planted, or higher up). Mine were topped with compost and then some straw to about 6 inches from their tops a couple of weeks ago, and they’re ready for another dose, as you can see. I’ll add 2 more inches of straw (and also reach my hand into the mounds to grab some new potatoes soon).
Let the Asparagus Go to Fern: It was great while it lasted, and this year my asparagus went about 10 weeks (usually I feel blessed for eight), but it’s time to stop harvesting spears here. Key is to keep the patch weeded all summer so the ferns can flourish until frost. I’m sorry to see it go, of course, but remember: nothing lasts. Well, except…
Marvel at the Tenacity of Some Plants: the ones you don’t want, that keep coming back anyway. I seeded lawn grass over my former bed that got infested with chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata, figuring mowing was my only chemical-free method of eliminating this devil. So far, not so good. Check back with me in a few years on this one. Onward!