Spring ended just before midnight on Sunday, and with the start of summer there are some tasks to consider.
Prune spring-flowering shrubs when they are done flowering. Lilac, forsythia, quince, bridal wreath spirals and other early bloomers develop their next bud harvest over the course of the summer. If they need pruning, be it a drastic reshaping or just a slight pruning, do so now so your blooms don’t wane next spring.
Examine hardy landscaping plants for signs of pests or disease, especially those that have had problems in the past. It’s best not to get spray crazy and apply chemicals every time you see a bug or spot on a leaf, but keep an eye on things.
For example, I grow mildew-resistant tall garden phlox, so I rarely experience fungal diseases on these plants, but I can see the early signs of mite infestation where the leaves turn light green and take on a yellowish tinge. If I spray an insecticidal soap at this point, being careful to hit the undersides of the leaves, the problem will be fixed and the plants will quickly grow out of the damage.
This is also the time of year when plant bugs take their toll. Robust, healthy growth at the tips of the plants turns brown apparently overnight. Upon closer inspection, you can see tiny beetles shoot out of view and notice that the newest, most delicate growth is speckled with brown spots. Plant bugs pierce the leaf surface, inject an enzyme that digests the plant tissue, and then suck it out, leaving a tiny, round, dried-out mark. Many insects that repeat the process will cause browned and burnt leaves. Usually the plants grow faster than the insects can work and look great in a week or so. But if the damage seems to be increasing, use a dose of insecticidal soap here too.
Fortunately, most of these problems affect plants that are not yet in flower, so there is little or no chance of your spray affecting bees or other pollinators.
Fertilize established hardy plants when they need it. A granular, delayed release product is easy to apply and can be used on any healthy, actively growing plant that appears to need a boost. Sick or stressed plants should not be fed until they begin to recover. New grafts don’t need to be fed, although you can use slow-acting organic options like eggshells, fish emulsion, and bone meal, which slowly break down and are available when plants need them.
Give annual flowers and vegetable seedlings or plants a few weeks to establish after planting, then start fertilizing regularly with a water-soluble product. If you’ve purchased pre-planted combos or hanging baskets, you can start feeding them right away at the frequency recommended on the product packaging.
Pinch mums, asters, and other later flowering plants that you might want to encourage to grow bushier, shorter, and more flowers. You can only cut off the tips of the branches or cut back plants in half. Around July 4th, you can pinch again and remove half of the growth above the first pinch, just above a set of leaves.
Do some weeding now before you really start freshening up the mulch on flower beds and landscaping to suppress new weeds and maintain soil moisture. To prevent new weeds in the tilled soil, apply a pre-emergent herbicide such as pren or corn gluten to prevent seeds from germinating.
Last but not least, stop regularly to enjoy the garden and soak up the sounds, smells and sights of nature.