Tidewater Gardening - June 2007
June Gardening Jobs
K. Marc Teffeau
Our gardening activities continue into June with transition into the summer. If you haven’t done so already, there is still time to transplant trees and shrubs in the landscape. Sometimes you can get some pretty good deals on plant materials at your local garden center because they want to move their remaining plant inventory before the hot summer weather. Planting at this time of year, however, takes some extra attention.
Be sure to correctly water any newly transplanted trees and shrubs. This is especially important for those container-grown plants that you have established in the landscape. Because they have been grown in a peat/bar media in the container, the root balls dry out quicker than the surrounding, heavier soil that you planted it in. Make sure that the root mass does not dry out, but at the same time, be sure not to over-water, especially in heavy clay soils.
You can continue to prune shrubs and trees in the landscape. Cut back the rampant growth that many trees and shrubs made during the spring season. Head back and thin over-vigorous shrubs to the desired size. Cuts on trees and shrubs made at this time will heal quickly. Remember, do not cover the pruning wounds with pruning paint. This is no longer a recommended practice.
It’s also time to divide and replant German iris. Cut back the leaves and divide the clumps into single plants with one or two sections of healthy rhizome. Discard any diseased plants. If disease has been a problem with your iris, it may be wise to try a new location for them. Also prune out the spent flowers of the spring flowering perennials to maintain a vigorous plant and good flower production for next spring.
Disbud chrysanthemum flowers to secure large, beautiful blooms on straight, strong stems. To disbud, remove the small side buds that form in the angles of the leaves along the stems. This allows all food reserves to be used for one large flower rather than many smaller ones.
Other spring and early summer flowering perennials can be divided now after their blooms fade. Instead of severing the clump in half, try jiggling the roots apart with two sharp, spading forks. This takes more time, but damages fewer roots than cutting the clump apart.
Weeds are the number one garden problem at this time of year. Mulching greatly aids in their control in flower and shrub beds and in the vegetable garden. Even if you haven’t mulched your plants, its not too late.
First clean the bed of existing weeds. If you use a hoe, be sure not to cultivate too deeply around shallow-rooted plants. This is a good time to use a swan, scuffle or rocker hoe as they do not penetrate the soil deeply. Azaleas and boxwoods are especially vulnerable to careless cultivation.
Make sure you don’t mulch too deeply. Two inches is adequate in the landscape. Over-mulching is one of the main causes of deaths in plants in the landscape.
Roses have already reached their peak bloom. To make sure that they continue to bloom all summer, keep to a regular spray schedule. Also, break off old blooms as soon as the petals drop. Roses should be ready for a light application of 5-10-5 or a similar 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer now that their first blooming period is coming to an end.
Grass clippings, weeds and any other organic refuse will decompose rapidly in a compost pile during the warm summer months. To speed up the decomposition, shred the organic matter as fine as possible, add a thin layer of soil, some lime and high nitrogen fertilizer and keep the pile moist. Turn the pile every couple of weeks to help the process.
Many of the house plants you placed outside for the summer will be making vigorous new growth now. Pinch and shape them as they grow to produce nice symmetrical full plants to bring back into the house next fall. Be sure to keep insects under control so you don’t bring them into the house as well.
Many home gardeners have discovered lumpy protrusions or galls on the branches, twigs and leaves of certain trees and shrubs. Most of these galls result from the activity of tiny insects and mites which “sting” the branch, twig or leaf surface. The insect is actually depositing eggs in the plant tissue. The galls that form safely house the developing insects or mites as they feed on the host plant.
The gall formation process is not completely understood, but it seems that the egg, or the stinging process, applies an enzyme that the plant cell reacts to. The size and shape of the gall is characteristic of the insect species which produces it. Galls vary in appearance from small pimple-like projects on leaves, to relatively large, inflated swellings such as the familiar golf ball-sized “apple” sometimes seen on oak trees.
Several types of insects are responsible for galls on garden plants. For example, most oak galls are caused by small wasps. Aphids produce spruce galls. The dogwood club gall is formed by a tiny fly, and a mite causes maple bladder gall, which frequently affects certain kinds of maples.
Most of the gall problems seem to be on oaks. There are a number of oak trees in Easton that have severe infestations of galls. Control of these gall-makers is often difficult. Where practical, prune out and destroy the galls. I haven’t seen the galls actually kill a plant, but it might make it so unattractive in the landscape that it looses its landscape value.
Spraying is usually not recommended, especially on the oak galls, as timing of the spray is almost impossible. Fertilize infected plants to encourage new growth.
Sometimes galls are caused by bacteria or fungi. Common examples include cedar apple gall on red cedar, crown gall on roses, and exobasidium leaf gall on azaleas. These galls are best controlled by removing and destroying them.
June is also a time to look out for other ornamental insect pests. Lacebugs are now feeding on azaleas, pyracantha and other woody plants, causing a gray, blanched or stippled appearance on the upper surface of the leaves. Take steps to control them as soon as you notice the damage. Use a soap spray or a summer oil. You can also contact your County Extension Office or local garden center for current spray recommendations
Don’t forget about the spring flowering bulbs in the landscape. Now that their flowers are faded memories, its time to provide them with a little care to ensure a good flower display next spring. Leave the foliage on the bulbs until it starts to brown. Topdress the bulbs with bonemeal or some 5-10-5 fertilizer to help the bulbs store up food reserves for next year.
If your planting seems to have been declining in flower production, maybe you need to thin and replant the bulbs this fall. Make a note on your home calendar.