Westward Independent

June Gardening Tips!

by Westward Independent
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This is such a wonderful time of the year that I find myself waking earlier and earlier just to go outside and check if any plants have new growth or blossoms. Wandering in your garden serenaded by birdsong is a wonderful thing to do!

Dogwood trees are one of nature’s wonders. They flower for an extended period of time and there are several varieties that extend the season from early April until mid-June. I planted a Cornus florida rubra in my garden and this slow-growing small tree has amazing pink flowers that last a long time. Dogwoods don’t actually have flowers but rather, like Potentillas, have bracts, which are modified leaves surrounding the flowers, which look a bit like stamens. If you plant a dogwood, make sure it has good air circulation around it and put it in a bed so that the bark on its lower trunk is protected from weed eaters and lawnmowers. Dogwoods enjoy open, loose soil but dislike poorly drained heavy soil. Water thoroughly and deep during dry periods, because if it dries out you will not see those sumptuous blooms next spring.

When your annuals have reached approximately three inches high, pinch out the center growth to encourage your plants to branch out and get bushy. The bushier your plants are, the more blossoms they will have. This includes marigolds, salvia, zinnia, petunias, coleus, snapdragons and many others. All of these annuals will respond beautifully to pinching and will greatly be enhanced by this bit of care when they are young. After you have pinched outgrowth a few times, you will be pleased with the many branches bearing blossoms on them. Also, pinch your Basil plants which will respond with more leaves for use in the kitchen. 

Dahlias get nice and bushy with lots of pinching unless you are growing a twelve-inch dinner plate variety for competition! In that case, do not pinch out growth, but rather let all its energy go into one stupendous flower by dis-budding, which is removing extra buds from the plant. Pinch out all side shoots and dis-bud ferociously, leaving only a few flowers per plant. Those blossoms left will be extra large.

Young plants that have been growing inside should be hardened off. Why harden off? Because it is a shock to the plant to be moved from a warm room or greenhouse and put outside where the sun may burn the leaves. By placing them in a sheltered area they will acclimate to nighttime temperatures and harsh sunlight over four or five days. Direct sunlight may burn the leaves if you put them straight into the sun without acclimatizing them first. After five days it is usually safe to plant in the garden, but if it is a very hot sunny day your plant will appreciate some remay placed over it or even an umbrella to protect it.

It’s not too late to plant your heat lovers! Starters abound at nurseries and you can get a head start that way but remember to harden them off.  Plant your tomatoes in the top few inches of soil on their sides with their stems bent up against a sturdy tall stake. Prune away growth that grows between the stem and the leaf if it is an indeterminate (grows like a vine and yields until frost) but leave all growth if is a determinate (grows into a bush and produces fruit all at once). Put on your to do list to tie tomatoes to its stake once a week. Remember to feed the soil with compost wherever you grow plants so they can produce healthy, strong plants, whether they are flowers or veggies.

The creative lure of planting pots and hanging baskets is now and is the perfect time to get them ready! It is exciting to look at the many plants available and to envision how to create stunning works to welcome friends and neighbours to your home. I love to mix various colours and try new plantings. Look critically at your home’s colours. Is your house mostly brown? Bright reds and yellows will make it shine. If your home is dark grey, consider planting various white flowers to brighten it up. 

When planting up hanging baskets, go for the largest basket you can find. A fourteen-inch plus basket will have much more room for the various plant’s roots to grow into than a ten-inch. A healthy root system supports a healthy plant full of blossoms! Allowing extra room for roots pays off. Use moisture-retaining soil and if you want annual flowers to show up to Thanksgiving weekend use a slow-release fertilizer such as 14-14-14 Nutricote which releases slowly through the season with heat, not water. I like to use as big a pot as possible with many plants in it to get a huge impact. When planting pots, if they are against a wall, put the tallest plants at the back. If it is a pot that you will walk around, plant your tallest in the middle. Work your way around the pot leaving the shortest and trailing plants for the sides. 

My entire garden is now planted and it feels so good to see how happy the tomato, squash and cucumber plants are to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I have peppers in five-gallon pots and squash plants are sunk into compost hills. Cucumbers are planted along a fence with climbing beans. We are eating butter-crunch lettuce daily and have finished the delicious Bok Choy that was planted in March. I have huge green onion plants from last year that are wonderful in stir-fries. I take big handfuls of chives and chop them fine and keep them in a covered bowl in the fridge where they last well and don’t lose their freshness. I find I use more of them when I don’t have to run out every time I need them. We have had our first feed of Brokali and are looking forward to more. The Kale from last year that I cut down to six inches are now producing lots of leaves and we are still eating last year’s leeks which are so tasty in soups or sauteed as Buttered Leeks!

Happy gardening,

Carol Money

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