A Full Plate for Gardeners This Month

From the Latin word "hortus" we get the word "garden". June signals the real onset of our growing season here in the Catskills and every aspect of gardening begins to demand our full attention: lawns, trees and shrubs, fruit, flowering bulbs, annuals and perennials, herbs, houseplants, and food crops.

Being surrounded by lush vegetation is good for the psyche. A relatively new field - eco-psychology - concerns man's mind in relation to his environment. Not only are people more at ease when surrounded by plants, but also they have lower blood pressure, faster reaction time, and higher productivity even in windowless environments if interior plantscaping is present. Horticulture soothes and invigorates.

Rock-n-rollers, take note. You can catch a glimpse of some of your favorites' gardens in a HGTV special "Rock Gardens" to be aired in October. Kenny Loggins, Joe Cocker, Darian Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish) and Mark Hoppus (Blink 182).

If you're a true plant-person-fanatic and want to plan a field trip for yourself and a few friends or family members, you ought to know the 2003 award for Garden Center Merchandising and Management Innovator is held by Matterhorn Nursery of Spring Valley, N.Y. On a twenty acre piece of property, imagine ten acres of display gardens. You will not be disappointed. Congratulations to Matt Horn for outstanding and consistent service to his customers.

All of your bird feeding stations should be removed and cleaned by now in preparation for fall. The exception is for those of you who enjoy feeding and observing hummingbirds. I am frequently asked whether it's okay to use a honey solution and the answer is a resounding no. It spoils quickly, is difficult for the birds to digest, it can harbor botulism and can produce a fatal fungus.

Sugar water is the way to go. Boil 4 parts of water to 1 of sugar. Fill feeder a little at a time keeping reserves in the fridge. Keep feeders clean with a vinegar/water solution. No food coloring is needed. Tie a red ribbon nearby.

A recent visit to Emerald Green Estates by Lake Louise Marie was marked by the presence of numerous landscape contractors and lawn and yard service companies. Surely, it is time for an updated garden calendar for the month of June.

  • Protect ripening strawberries from birds, Use netting or row cover material.

  • On fruit trees thin out some developing fruit to achieve a harvest of larger fruit.

  • Spittle bugs which protect themselves with froth can be rid of with a water spray.

  • You can prune needle evergreens now. Remove 1/2 or more of new candles.

  • Remove faded blooms of lilac, rhodos, and azaleas before they set seed.

  • Remove a 2 to 3 foot circle of turf from around trees and shrubs. Replace with mulch. This helps keep mowers and weed whackers away from trunks.

  • Once annuals, perennials and vegetables are planted, fertilize lightly avoiding foliage and stems. Then, mulch to control weeds and conserve moisture.

  • If you fancy dahlias, put stakes in place when you plant them.

  • Mow lawn areas high (3-3 1/2") and often and leave the clippings.

  • Pinch mums when 6" high and again when side branches are 6".

  • Turn compost often to keep aerated and speed the process. Moisten if dry.

  • Mulch asparagus beds after harvest and fertilize with 5-10-10.

  • Set out a rain gauge. Newly planted trees, shrubs and lawns need 1 to 2" per week.

  • Now through July is best for propagation from softwood cuttings.

  • Watch for characteristic notching on rhodo and taxus foliage. This is the work of the black vine weevil. Its larvae feed on the roots. The adult is nocturnal. Tanglefoot collars around trunks work great as traps. Parasitic nematodes can be used as a soil drench in August to control the larvae. Pyrethrin and pyrethroid sprays of the foliage at night through June will control adults, too. Bring the flashlight or lantern.

  • If you have the room, you can direct seed in garden beds cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and Chinese cabbage for fall.

  • Divide ground covers this month.

  • For cleaner and larger fruits,support or cage tomatoes.

  • Fertilize roses when first blooms are showing.

  • Move houseplants out to protected, partially shaded locations.

  • Foil cutworms with collars around plant stems.

These suggestions should give you plenty to think about and do toward success this growing season. In my next column I will look into what "organic" can mean to the homeowner. Until then, break a sweat and get some soil under your fingernails. It's good for the body and the soul.


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on June 4, 2003

© 2003 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.