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What to do in the garden now

Posted by PankajT z6MA (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 6:34

As someone who took up gardening seriously just last year, I have a lot to learn and am starting this thread so the more experienced gardeners out there (if you are willing!) could share their expertise. It would be great to hear what needs to be done at any given time and to hear about time-saving tips. I have a big yard and the work feels overwhelming at times. I know I'm not doing things as efficiently as I should. So what are YOU doing in your garden nowadays?

I'm still trying to finish weeding the perennial beds and putting down a nice leaf mulch. Of course some weeds come through the mulch anyway and I'd like to know how best to deal with those.

I am still planting as well as the beds have lots of gaps and empty spaces. This past weekend, I went to a plant swap in Billerica and came away with some Cranesbill geraniums, a hosta, a mukdenia, a spiderwort, a little lemon balm seedling, some campanulas, and seedlings of foxglove (mixed colors), rose campion, malva zebrina and nicandra. All have been planted and I am eagerly waiting to see how they turn out.

I also read somewhere that a good thing to do now would be to pinch back about half the tips on monarda and phlox ... this would purportedly extend the blooming period. Good idea?

Thanks, Claire, for encouraging me to post :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What to do in the garden now

PankajT - Welcome to the forum. There are plenty of folks who post here to offer ideas/suggestions/recommendations that will help you learn how to enhance your garden experience. I suggest you also check out the Perennials forum here on GardenWeb.

First of all, everything is quite a bit later this year due to the extremely long, cold winter. Things are just now beginning to look as they did in mid-May in prior growing seasons. That's something to note because next spring & summer could be significantly different, i.e., radically warmer, wetter/drier, etc. Don't expect the same things at the same time in your garden from one year to the next.

Weeding is generally a season-long task but it can be minimized by mulching. I use shredded pine bark spread over layers of recycled corrugated cardboard. It stops about 90% of weeds. Vinegar is another non-toxic weed killer but should be used with caution: it kills whatever it touches.

Tradescantia/Spiderwort tends to self-seed in my garden. I wouldn't suggest it's invasive but you may find it growing where a) you didn't plant it; and b) where you don't want it. Same goes for Lychnis coronaria/rose campion and I've heard horror stories about Malva zebrine/zebra mallow. Google either botanical or common plant names and read the descriptions prior to purchase if you want to avoid planting regret.

Currently I am, with help, dividing mature hostas and finding new homes for them, either in other beds, around the base of mature oak trees or else offering them to neighbors, friends and family. While normally considered shade plants, they do well in several of my part sun beds, are virtually zero-care/maintenance* and, to my own eyes, elegant additions to my little green acre.

* I sprinkle crushed eggshells around the base of hostas as they emerge each spring: slugs/snails won't cross the eggshells because the sharp edges cut them. Ergo organic, non-toxic slug deterrent that also adds nutrients to the soil.

I "ditch" the edges of my garden beds, most of which are curved to make lawn mowing easier. If you visit a botanical garden, you'll notice they "ditch" their beds as well. Ditching also gives garden beds a defined edge.

I picked up many helpful garden tips from a book by Sharon Lovejoy titled Trowel & Error.

Pinching back tends to help control height and on some perennials results in more blooms as well as slightly later blooming. I cut back Agastache foeniculum/anise hyssop and Platycodon grandiflora/balloon flower each growing season to encourage heavier blooming as well as to control height. Balloon flower especially tends to flop if left to its own devices.

I have more current photos of my garden beds but no longer have a photo sharing host.

All my beds have names. This is Crabapple Corner a few years ago. The part-sun bed is full now and considerably more mature with hosta, astilbe, variegated Solomon's seal, Heuchera/coral bells, stokesia, daylily, Chelone/turtlehead, Trollius ledebouri/Chinese globe flower, Alchemilla mollis/lady's mantle, Tricyrtis hirta/toad lily.

North Shade bed in early spring - hosta*, astilbe, columbine, Hellebore/Lenten rose, Brunnera/Siberian bugloss, Heuchera/coral bells, Japanese painted fern, Mertensia virginica/Virginia bluebells, Dicentra spectabilis/bleeding heart

*Hosta: Krossa Regal, Regal Splendor, Revolution, Dream Weaver, Queen of the Seas, Touch of Class, Frances Williams + a few others

North Shade Bed (L), Burgess Slope & Burgess Oval

Wiley West - Buddleia/butterfly bush, peony, Caryopteris/blue mist shrub, Penstemon/beardtongue, Sedum, Aquilegia/columbine, Clematis, Siberian iris, daylily, Stachys/lamb's ear 'Helen Von Stein,' Leucanthemum superbum/Shasta daisy, Gaura lindheimeri/wandflower, Echinacea/coneflower, among others

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden


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RE: What to do in the garden now

gardenweed, love your walkways. Your photos are inspirational. Thanks!

I think finding a good hand weeder is important esp since I deal with witch/quack grass and creeping jenny that spread by runners. My first was a Cape Cod weeder. I've heard a cobra head weeder recommended. This is one tool I recommend paying whatever $$$ because it's going to save you time when you pull up a lot of nasty roots.

I still have to learn how to keep a perennial patch in line. We just pulled out a lot of tall white phlox that spread a lot from the little plant I bought a few years ago. Because I didn't keep it in bounds, I lost a nice red yarrow. Actually, I think the two plants did not go well together and shouldn't have planted them so close.

My beds are mostly south of the house since our driveway is very close to the house and our house is perpendicular to the road. So the nice plants I put on the north side of the beds like to look south. I found lily and daffodil blossoms tend to face south. And, what was I think planting a lavender on the west side of the bed. It needs more sun.

I would watch plant swap plants carefully as already posted. My lemon balm died out last winter yet other people think it's invasive. Possible I weeded out any volunteers. I asked for one this year at a swap.

Some annuals readily self seed for me. Calendula is wonderful here and there in the veggie garden. Borage gets too big but it's a good bee plant. Anise hyssop grows here and there in one bed. Both bees and birds love it. I do not cut my perennials back in the fall because too many birds enjoy the seed heads.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 11:51

Good tips from gardenweed and defrost49.

I'll throw in a few thoughts as they come to me. Keep in mind that I am a very laissez-faire gardener who likes naturalistic casual plantings and likes to let plants grow in their own fashion. Neat I am not - I think clutter is comfortable.

RE Weeds: Someone once said that if you have weeds, you don't have enough plants. Mulch is great for the health of the soil, but groundcover plants will cover the soil too and will prevent many weeds from getting a foothold. You can find groundcovers in many different styles; casual and formal. Grow something low that you like and you'll really cut down on the weeding.

RE Flopping: Some plants will start falling over when they mature. If you think a plant may flop later on, stake it well before you need to, when you can still easily put the staking system up, and before the sudden thunderstorm knocks the leaning plant to the ground.

RE Next season: Remember that Spring is not the only season. Don't overload the garden with lovely Spring plants and then have no room for Summer and Fall.

RE Spring bulbs: Order them now, when you remember where the bare spots are. Many online suppliers give discounts if you order by July 1. edit note: Keep a list of where you planned to put the bulbs. When they arrive in the fall everything will look different and you probably won't remember what Spring looked like (I don't).

RE Irrigation: If you want to use something like soaker hoses in the heat of summer, it's a lot easier to put them in place now before growth gets rampant. Also, don't water too often. Water deeply and then go away and let the roots grow down following the water.

RE Sunlight: Keep an eye on the sunlight exposure throughout the seasons. What looks really sunny in early Spring may be in deep shade when the sun moves overhead and trees leaf out in Summer. Conversely, when the sun gets high up in Summer it may clear the trees that provided shade in Spring.

RE Beneficial insects and birds: A lot of the bugs flitting and crawling around your garden are good for it. They keep the nasty bugs in check. So do birds. Avoid catastrophic chemical pesticides and you'll have a healthier garden that will be less susceptible to disease. You don't have to go completely organic, but do restrain yourself (except for lily leaf beetles and winter moths, etc.).

RE Healthy soil: Current theory is that you should feed the soil, not the plants. Keep the soil microbes and beasties happy (AKA the Soil Food Web) and they will feed the plants. A compost pile is a wondrous thing for your garden.

RE Garden edging: If you keep a nice clean neat garden edging, any unruly plants look contained. Hardscape like stone paths do the same.

RE Winter interest: Don't forget that you'll be looking at your yard in the Winter when all of the perennials are dormant. Shrubs and trees, evergreen or deciduous, look a whole lot better than perennials then (at least in New England). Ornamental grasses are good for Winter too.

RE Slow growing plant material: Include trees in your planting plans now so you'll live to see them grow big. Also don't make the mistake I made when I first started gardening. I'd read that it took ornamental grasses three years before they looked good, so I didn't plant any because I wanted immediate gratification. Three years later I started kicking myself because I had no grasses. I then planted a bunch of them.

RE Change: Your garden is a living thing and will change; often in ways you didn't plan. Some plants will grow taller or wider than you planned and will crowd out the smaller plants. Roll with it and move whatever needs a better location. Remember that not only will your garden change, but so will your tastes, or your physical abilities. You don't have to stick to a design that doesn't suit you any more.

I hope this is useful.

Claire

edit note: RE Record keeping: Keep records of the names of plants you buy or receive. It can be a fancy spreadsheet or a shoe box. And take photos of when plants bloom and what looks good together.

This post was edited by claire on Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 12:01


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RE: What to do in the garden now

To expound on Claire's note - buy bulbs now.

I took an old set of mini blinds and cut them into plant stakes. Write on them with a Paint Pen. I made labels "TULIPS HERE". "NEED ORANGE TULIPS". Etc. Stick the stakes in your garden. Now. Then you don't have to remember. Or start looking at old photos and trying to remember.

I do what I call the "Monday Morning Photo Project". I try to go out every Monday morning and take photos of my gardens. I take overall shots of the different areas and close ups of different blooms. And that is why I started the Show us Your Gardens Series of threads.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

gardenweed, defrost49 and claire,

Thanks for posting. First I was overwhelmed by the garden and now I'm overwhelmed with all the great ideas :)

I should say that, although I took up gardening seriously last year, my garden isn't new. In fact, we had our garden done professionally 18 years ago and the woman who did it was brilliant. So the trees in the yard are spectacular and I enjoy them immensely. She also laid out perennial beds, but wasn't fully in tune with conditions in the yard, particularly that we have a HUGE deer problem and large parts of the garden drain poorly because there is ledge not too far below.

My wife took care of the flower beds for years, but declared last year that she was through, so the job has fallen to me. I have always enjoyed plants (my Mom let me have my own patch in the vegetable garden when I was growing up in Delhi) and so I didn't mind taking on this task. But I'm still learning how to do it right.

gardenweed, I loved your pictures and the fact that your garden areas have names. I am trying to do the same thing as I try to keep track of where everything is. You should post some of your more current photos in the "What's blooming in your garden" forum ... lots of wonderful pictures and ideas for plants.

defrost49, about the hand weeder, I read on another forum that the best type of weeder is a scuffle hoe (something I had never heard of) and people were raving about the brand Rogue. I intend to order one of those hoes.

claire, I especially like your idea of ordering bulbs now and making drawings of where they go. What about bulbs that are already in the ground? When could they be moved? If I pull them out now, can I go ahead and plant them where I want them or do I have to wait until the Fall?

I'll look forward to further posts, especially ones that tell me what needs to be done right now.

Happy gardening to all!

Pankaj


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Gardenweed, Great pictures of your garden. It certainly is well cared for. Just so you know, Hostas do not require dividing, ever. The exception to this is if you want to propagate new plants or if they don't have enough space. Dividing Hostas sets them back in terms of maturity and a mature Hosta may take 5 or 6 years to fully develop. When they are given the right amount of space in which to grow, they never need dividing.

Here's an example. The Blue Angel in the back of this bed is 6 feet in diameter. It took me 5 years to grow it to this size. If I divided it, it would be smaller overall with smaller leaves as well. This one will never be divided.
Back Bed left
Pankaj, below is a link to a blog that give a great listing of monthly garden chores. This garden is in eastern New York and zone 5B so you have to take that into account, but it's the best monthly list of garden chores I've seen.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: A Way to Garden - Monthly Garden Chores


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RE: What to do in the garden now

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 17:00

Pankaj: OK, you have an established garden - you're just not sure what to do with it. That's an excellent link Steve posted.

Can you post a list of what plants you have that you don't know how to maintain? Or pictures? People here love to identify plants and there's always the Name That Plant forum.

That ledge is intriguing - is it close enough to the surface that you can uncover it and make it a wonderful landscape feature?

It's tricky to move bulbs when they're not ripened yet. Sometimes you can get away with it (daffodils in particular are tough), but not always. At a minimum you should wait until the foliage yellows before moving them, but Fall is really best when the bulbs are finished building the tissues and roots for spring.

That said, I just contradicted my own advice by digging some Jetfire daffodils out from under the Grey Owl junipers that have grown over them. The foliage wasn't even yellow but I figured that I'd never be able to find them if I let them die down and the junipers kept spreading (as they will).

Junipers and daffodils in March, 2012
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Junipers a week ago (June 7, 2014) just before I waded in looking for daffodil foliage. There were mosquitoes in there too, whining around my head (I had bug spray on). You can't even see the daffodils.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There were about forty bulbs varying in size from tiny bulblet to big healthy bulb. In this case I decided not to try to plant them now, having no idea whether the little ones would be viable and finding a place for forty holes is difficult, particularly when you figure many of them won't survive the move.

I ended up planting them in good potting soil with the green foliage exposed to the sun to give them a chance to ripen. I'll wait until the fall and see if I have any decent sized bulbs to plant.

Maybe a crazy idea but it seems possible.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I'm just trying to give you an idea of thought processes when the situation isn't ideal (and it rarely is).

Claire


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RE: What to do in the garden now

steve_mass - I appreciate the kudos. Thanks for the hosta tips as well but I've been growing them most of my adult life. I rarely divide my plants but was faced with an ugly situation that made it necessary. They've bounced back much more quickly than I expected, thanks, I assume, to the cool temps and rain in recent days.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Steveinma, I guess I planted too close huh?


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RE: What to do in the garden now

I don't know how to post more than onepic at a time, sorry.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

ishareflowers - your bed looks a lot like my own; guess I planted my hostas too close as well.

PankajT - you might want to make a note that Digitalis/foxglove is a biennial, meaning it grows foliage the first year and blooms the next and may disappear the year after. That's been my own experience, but since I mulch heavily over cardboard, I may be shooting myself in the foot when it comes to foxglove.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

PankajT: yes, I saw the recommendations for the scuffle hoe. I haven't used mine in years so I thought I should get it out. I would say you still need a hand weeder for the small areas around and between plants. I used to use the hoe for straight rows between vegetables but once a garden fills in, the hoe is too big to get between plants where a nasty weed has gotten a start.

Great responses. Glad you asked the question. I like the tip of using old mini blinds to make markers. I have a garden journal I have been using. Just need to remember to write in it. Also make a list when I think of what I need to do.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Thanks to everyone for all the great tips.

Steve, thanks for that link ... great stuff! I watched a couple of the Lee Reich videos on composting and it led me to ask the following question: do pulled up weeds count as "green" stuff or "brown" stuff for the compost pile? Right now, my compost bin is getting nothing but pulled up weeds and kitchen scraps. What do I need to add to that to make for a good pile? Can grass clippings be used at all to provide some of the nitrogen, or is that what the weeds are doing?

That hosta display of yours is amazing. Do you have deer in your neck of the woods? I have been shying away from planting hosta because I have been told that deer love to eat it ... so I would lose everything if I planted it away from the house.

claire, great thought about the ledge being used as a landscape feature. Actually the focal point of the view from the back of the house is an outcropping of ledge (i've added a photo of that from last winter.). Still have to tackle the landscaping around it (sigh!) ... one thing at a time! Right now I'm working on the perennial beds.

You asked about individual plants, so here's a specific question (or set of questions). What about fertilizing? My plan is to not fertilize the perennials; rather, I am putting down a good inch or two of this wonderful one-year-old (i.e., partially composted) cut leaf mulch I get from a local nursery. Any comments?

For the peonies, I added a ring of cow manure right on top of the mulch last year and plan to do that again this year. Is there a best time to do this?

What about rhodies and azaleas ... when should they be fertilized?

And I was thinking of giving the roses some rose tone. Is there a best time (or times)?

All tips on fertilizing would be very welcome.

Another set of questions relates to deadheading ... do the iris need it badly? I know the rhododendrons need it, but I simply don't have the time to do it :(

defrost49, I read that the tool of choice for weeding tight spaces is a cobra-headed hoe. But this is just book knowledge.

Happy Gardening to all!
Pankaj


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RE: What to do in the garden now

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 14, 14 at 18:10

Pankaj: I'm not comfortable with giving general advice on fertilization; I don't have really broad experience with different plants. I will say what I do in my yard with my fairly limited plantings.

In the fall I throw compost on pretty much every bed and I leave oak leaves and pine needles where they fall, except on the grass. If they fall on the grass, I rake them into the nearest bed. A big reason for this is that winters here on the coast usually aren't too cold, but there are fierce winds and minimal snow cover so I want to protect the roots and crowns of whatever. In the spring I remove only what's necessary to allow sprouting. I leave the mulch in place for the next challenge, which is a usually droughty summer.

I believe peonies and roses should be fertilized in the spring when they start to grow and produce buds. Your cow manure is probably fine if placed in the spring.

I use Espoma Rose-tone for the roses, following the directions to apply every month during the growing season if they're flowering. This is controversial - I've been told that this is too much but my roses don't seem to mind (I let them grow big). I also give the peonies a shot of Rose-tone in the spring.

I don't fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons beyond the compost in the fall. Since I leave compost/leaves/needles in place all year round that mulch should break down and add nutrients.

In my opinion, you don't need to deadhead irises and rhododendrons (unless you want to keep the rhodies compact). Daylilies and phlox benefit from deadheading and so do some roses (unless you want hips).

I'm sure others will chime in with different opinions.

Claire


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RE: What to do in the garden now

ishareflowers, most people do plant that close because when the plants are young you want to fill in the space. A good rule of thumb is to take the listed height of the plant and assume 2 to 2 and a half times that for the eventual diameter. What is important, however, is to get the really giant plants in a place where they will stay. You can always move the smaller ones, but the giants will take several people to move.

Panaj, I have not yet had deer visit my garden. Nor have we seen them in the 10 acres of woods that backs up my property. It could be our dogs or it could be that we have a den of foxes just outside my gardens. Hostas are like candy for deer, however, you can manage with repellents like Liquid Fence. It depends on the pressure of the population in your area.

As for weeds in the compost those are considered "green" or nitrogen in the compost pile. Make sure they have not gone to seed. I don't worry too much about the percentage of green and brown material. Just make sure there's some of each.

As for fertilizing, I would suggest a soil test so you know what is needed. I use UConn, but UMass is good too. Every so often a soil test is a good idea. That way you aren't guessing as to what your plants need.

Here's what I use for weeding in tight space. It's called a Dutch Hand Hoe.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: UConn soil testing lab


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Deadheading - I don't. Fading blooms don't offend my aesthetic sensibilities and I generally harvest seeds once they ripen.

Claire posted I'm not comfortable with giving general advice on fertilization

Nor am I since each garden has its own individual & specific needs, however...

Fertilizing - I don't. I primarily grow perennials and shrubs that attract and sustain pollinators (bees, birds, butterflies). Established perennials growing in healthy soil with adequate moisture seldom need fertilizer in my garden. In one of my beds there are peonies growing that my brother planted 30+ years ago which have never been fertilized. I used to spread wood ashes around them in winter but stopped when I noticed it made no difference in their growing habit, size or the number of blooms.

I have only one rhodie and 3 azaleas; none get fertilized or deadheaded. Nor do my 50+ daylilies. I tend to lean toward minimal maintenance for my garden beds.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

At this time of year I am renewing mulch in the perennial and shrub beds(though that tends to be an all growing season activity) as well as putting it down in the veggie garden. I don't fertilize anything other than containers of plants, but I do add mulch or compost which will break down to feed the soil and plants. Similarly, your chopped leaf mulch will do this along with improving the tilth of your soil. I add composted manure to the veggie garden in fall and turn in it so everything is ready for planting in spring. A general rule, though, if you want to fertilize (including manure and compost), do it early in the season until midsummer and then stop. You don't want plants pushing out new growth late in the season since it needs time to harden off so that it can survive the winter.

I do deadhead some things. Some years I have deadheaded the rhodies, but it doesn't seem to make a difference as they bloom prolifically regardless, so as long as the aesthetics of the rhodies don't bother you, don't worry about it. Today I deadheaded my white iris since the dead blossoms look fairly icky, large blobs of slimy gray. I also was deadheading my Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' and H. paniculata 'Pinky Winky' and 'Quick Fire.' I like the dead Hydrangea blossoms over the winter, but should have deadheaded them back in April, but didn't get to it. I also trimmed dead wood out of my roses, something I should have done in May once I could tell what was dead, but didn't get to that then either.

I did some weeding of the perennial beds, a few of which I leave unmulched for the self-seeders like Nicotiana and foxglove. I also did some weeding prior to spreading mulch in the veggie garden. In the broader areas I used my wide scuffle AKA stirrup hoe (8 1/2"), closer around plants and between narrow rows I used a narrow scuffle hoe that's about 3' wide, and right around the plants I use fingers. My perennial bed weeding uses the same tools, though since most of them are well mulched and don't get as much soil disturbance, they need weeding less often.

I don't generally use pesticides other than Bt in the garden (one type for mosquitos larvae in standing water, another type for potato bugs, and a third type for cutworms on crops I can't put collars around like peas and onions. I spent time today looking for cutworms (they generally hide in the soil at the base of plants with cut stems or holes in leaves near the ground) and dropping them into a can of soapy water and also discovered that the chafers, which usually just eat my roses and elderberry blossoms, had descended on one of my favorite clematis and a Deutzia, so I knocked a bunch of them into soapy water as well.

I don't tend to do garden chores on a schedule, but rather I mostly wander around the garden until I see something that needs doing and work on that. I particularly keep an eye out for problem insects, foliage that looks diseased, and insect and mammal pests such as voles, and of course veggies that are ready for harvest. Only when I feel like things are getting really out of control do I make a list of chores and try to work my way through them systematically.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

I have good luck with liquid fence, too. When we first moved here, deer ate one kind of hosta out of two, so I started using the repellant. I now have more hostas but I think the deer are enjoying food elsewhere. There is an adjacent field that is used for corn and hay. We didn't see as many this spring as usual since the farmer did not plant winter rye. There's about 4 visiting occasionally but they don't seem to be coming near the veggie and flower beds. Late last fall I did lose some cabbages to a deer. I guess since there is plenty of food elsewhere, they don't like to come close to the house.

I like nhbabs' description of wandering around the garden and just doing what needs to be done.

Went on a working educational farm tour yesterday. The vegetable gardener stressed how important it was to weed (he likes a stirrup hoe) when weeds are very tiny, just a thread. That's something I need to keep reminding myself.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Great thread, thanks for starting it, PankajT, and welcome to the forum.

Like the others who responded, I don't usually fertilize perennials or woody plants. This is an ongoing argument in my family, and I've noticed that the people who take a lot of vitamins also like to douse their gardens with 'plant food' - those of us who just try to eat healthy meals tend to use organic mulch and compost. Coincidence, or not?

As to your original question, what I'm doing in my garden now is listed below. I had a really late start because of travel and weather.

- cutting back a few things (mainly hydrangea macrophylla, also Vitex) that didn't leaf out completely after the awful winter we had, but also things like rosemary willow, that want to be a little bigger than the spaces I've given them (my bad)

- transplanting some volunteer seedlings (hellebores, snapdragons) and thinning some others (verbena bonariensis, mallow, common thyme) and filling in some bare edges with (I almost hate to admit this) annual lobelia

- turning the compost, which is being overloaded with grass clippings; I like to get those turned into the old leaves at the bottom of the pile

- adding bark mulch to the areas where the soil is bare or nearly bare, and removing the last of the leaves that blew into the gardens over the winter

- mercilessly stalking (and no, I don't mean staking) the sweet autumn clematis that pops up at the base of every woody plant, in hopes of eradicating it once and for all (will never happen)

- weeding, and more weeding - including a hopeless attempt to get the grass out of one neglected bed, which will probably need to be dug up and re-built from scratch, and trying to decimate the Canadian anemone, which wants to take over the daylily garden.

- enjoying all the color, and checking different areas so I can plan my next bout of revisions

PS, please thank your wife for the idea; maybe I'll see if I can get my husband to help in the garden, if I threaten to turn the whole thing over to him next year.


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RE: What to do in the garden now

Well, I'll add my two cents worth. I've only been gardening since 2005, but it's become an obsession.

I don't fertilize because I heard that makes them too big and they flop. I hate floppy plants. I guess my soil is good (never really had it formally tested) because things grow well and big. I do fertilize roses (early May, mid-June and end of August) because they're thirsty, hungry plants. You can probably skip the last fertilization but I like to get fall blooms and our falls have been so warm, except for last year.

I deadhead everything because I find it extremely relaxing at night after work. I get to view everything and be outside.

I prune my roses but not hydrangeas or azaleas. Roses can have an ugly shape but I generally like things a little wild and wooly.

Mulching is a big problem. My big gardens are out back. Access is only by steps by the north side (it slopes dramatically), so getting mulch there is problematic. I've recently decided to use leaves from the nearby woods as mulch. I don't like the look but don't really want to drag mulch down there.

I'm finding that, though I like the look of a crammed cottage garden, it's hard to maintain because there's no where to step around some plants. If you have to transplant or even fertilize, it's difficult to get to without harming surrounding plants. You'd be surprised how quickly things grow!

I often divide hostas because I don't like them too big. I found an easier, cleaner method - I just dig around them in the ground and cut through them, then just take out the parts.


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