Summer garden tasks

We have had a fantastic spring for planting.  Frequent rains have provided regular water to anything you planted this spring.  It is about time to wrap up planting for the season.  Of course, you can plant all summer but you will have to be much more vigilant about watering newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials as the weather gets warmer and the rainfall less frequent (probably if we are going to have a normal Delaware summer).  If the weather gets really dry, you will need to water most of the plants you put in this spring.  Plants shouldn’t be considered fully established until they have gone through at least one complete growing season.  Large trees may take several years to become fully established.   Consider using a gator bag on newly planted trees.  Fill up the bag with a hose and the water will trickle out slowly allowing the soil to absorb all the water and making it available to the tree roots.  The same thing can be accomplished with a five gallon bucket that has a few holes punched in the bottom.  You can also water using a hose set at trickle, but that takes much more time and effort to keep moving the hose once the soil has become saturated.  Do not apply water faster than what your soil can absorb.  Water that runs off is wasted and can cause erosion and particulate pollution in nearby waterways.

With the bulk of your planting completed, it is time to turn your gardening attention to taking care of your plants.  Early summer is the time to prune spring flowering shrubs.  Always cut branches back to another branch or bud, never leaving a branch stump.  Remove the longest branches to reduce the size of your shrubs but maintain their natural form.  As perennials finish blooming, remove spent flowers to conserve the plant’s resources. Some perennials and shrubs will even re-bloom if cut back after flowering and before seed heads develop. But, if you want to encourage seeding to spread a ground cover or plant you want to fill into a larger space, then leave seed heads on and allow seeds to mature.  You might also want to leave seed heads to feed birds.  Gold finches love cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) seeds, but I am always torn about leaving seeds because this plant seeds into the garden prolifically. Cut back fall-blooming plants, like mums and asters, now to encourage a compact habit when they bloom in August to October.

If you are managing a meadow, you may want to cut the meadow back now (mid to late June) to keep grasses from flopping later in the season.  We have had a wet spring, so grasses will be at the taller end of their normal range and may flop unless they are cut back now.  If you are cutting back your meadow, mow it to a height of 6-8 inches.  It will look sloppy for a few days, but the grasses and perennials in the meadow will quickly regrow and your meadow will be dense and lush again soon.  You should be mowing paths through your meadow to provide access and a “cue of care.”  You can mow the path on the same schedule as the rest of your lawn (approximately weekly) and mow one mower width on each side of the path every several weeks.  That will also help to keep the meadow looking neat and tidy and keep the path clear of flopping grasses.

This cup plant (tall yellow flower on the right) will feed gold finches but it will also seed into the garden, so be careful.

This cup plant (tall yellow flower on the right) will feed gold finches but it will also seed into the garden, so be careful.

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