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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of June 27, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Boy Planting Tomato

I’m a morning person; always have been.  I’m sure the fact that I grew up on a farm, where an early start was a standing order, is responsible for this daily habit.  I don’t regret it.  It fits nicely with my gardening interests.  The garden is always its best in the morning, just as the sun is rising.  Plants are turgid and covered with dew, rendering a very fresh look and feel.

It’s also cool in the early hours and tending to certain gardening tasks is much easier then than during the heat of the day.  Morning is the best time to harvest vegetables, cut flowers, water gardens and containers, weed, deadhead, and inspect plants for pests. Slugs, snails, and many insects are nocturnal; that is, they are active at night, feeding on the leaves of garden plants.  Often, they can still be found hanging around at dawn before they retreat to hiding places where they are protected from the sun.  Early morning is a good time to capture the rascals.

While you’re still awake:

  • Deadhead roses, irises, peonies, alliums, and other plants whose flowers are spent.  This not only makes the garden look neater but may also encourage additional flowering, except on those plants genetically programmed to bloom only once.
  • Leave the spent foliage of daffodils alone even though they have flopped and are turning yellow.  Once they have dried up, they will easily pull away from attachment to their subterranean bulbs.  My mother used to tie the fading foliage into a knot to get it out of the way so that she could plant annuals to hide the yellowing daffodil leaves.
  • Beat your spruce trees and other conifers.  No, I’m not advocating tree abuse.  This is simply a way to check for spider mite infestations.  Hold a piece of white paper beneath a branch while striking it several times with a stick.   Examine the paper closely for tiny moving dots about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  These are spider mites.  Fast-moving dots are most likely natural predators that feed on the spider mites. Apply an insecticidal soap to infested trees unless natural predators are in abundance.
  • Make another planting of bush beans.  Most varieties of bush beans have a harvest period of only a few weeks at most.  Save some seed for one more sowing in mid-July.
  • Keep an eye, or two, on the pea patch.  Peas are ready for harvest when the pods are plump and firm.  Pick peas as near to cooking time as is practical.  Don’t let picked peas sit around more than a day since they rapidly lose their sweet flavor.
  • Sucker tomatoes that are tied to stakes.  Suckering refers to removal of new shoots that arise at the base of tomato plants and lateral shoots that appear in leaf crotches.  With tomatoes growing in cages, remove all but 3 or 4 shoots, just to allow for better air movement through the plants.

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