Category Archives: Pruning

Phil’s Garden Tips & Tricks for June

Summer starts around the 21st of this month, which means that the sunshine is most effective. Sunshine is the food of photosynthesizing plants! On the 21st the sun is close to vertical in the sky during the day, giving the most food possible to the plants. After the 21st it slowly drops from vertical every day. Always remember that no matter what the TV advertisers say, fertilizer is not, and has never been, food for plants.

  • This is the best month to plant the warm season annuals—flowers or vegetables:  Petunias, Impatiens, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, Basil, Cucumbers, etc.
  • Mow regularly: set your lawn mower at the highest setting for the rest of the summer until October. The longer grass helps to shade the roots and keeps the grass greener and healthier.
  • Keep on top of the weeds. The rainy season is over, and it will soon be less work. You can toss the weeds out in the sunny part of the bed (but only those not going to seed!) and they will dry up by the end of the day and not reroot, like they might in the rainy season.
  • Water as needed: one inch per week at least on the lawn, and about half an inch on the shrubs, is a standard rule of thumb.
  • Slug bait is still important. Try to use pet-safe bait.
  • If it is needed, prune flowering shrubs or perennials after they bloom.
  • Check the Rhodies and Azaleas to see if you need to do any weevil control such as nematodes or insect tape. Also, check to see if you have lace bug damage on the leaves. It usually shows up later in the summer.  They suck the Chlorophyll out of the leaf cells and make the leaves look hideous.  They can be somewhat controlled by a predator called Green or Brown Lace Wings, which may be purchased locally.
  • If you want to make your Rhodies bloom more and look neater, it is time to dead head them.
  • Check for Aphids and cabbage worms and act, if needed, on veggies or roses.

Phil’s Garden Tips and Tricks for May

May is the month that has inspired so many poets and song writers over hundreds of years, mostly because here in the Northern Hemisphere it is when many of the deciduous plants put out their foliage and many of the evergreens like Rhododendrons and Camellias put out their blooms. There are many perennials such as Peonies, Campanulas and Dianthus which begin blooming this month. Most of the bulbs of March and April are now finished and the warmer days have returned.

Those who are not so aware of the seasons might think that now is the best time to plant everything. But that is not true. It is the time to plant the vegetable garden, the lettuces, cucumbers and so on. However, the tomatoes and peppers should wait ’till June to really do well, that is when the real, regular warmer weather shows up.

The time to plant shrubs and trees is best done in the latter half of October through March when it is cooler and the rainy season descends. For now, if one plants shrubs and trees, they will need to be babied through this first summer or they will die because we are going into the dry season of our year. As a business we plant all year long because we have jobs all year long, but we have found that planting is the most successful if done in October through March.

The time to plant lawns by seed is April/May and September/October, but these seeds also need to be babied to get rooted and grow. July/August is often very hot and difficult (if not impossible), to get lawns to grow from seed, and the months of November through March are often too cold and wet and the seeds just rot. Often the best alternative is the more expensive but quicker method, laying down sod. Sod can be placed almost anytime of the year in our climate.

There is a cycle to the seasons and a best time for each gardening activity. May is the month for incredible growth of both weeds, (unwanted plants) and wanted plants! Therefore, it is the month to be diligent, but do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Simply make sure that the weeds which are preparing to set seed now, are the first to be pulled, and those who are still just thinking about it can be left for next week. Those plants which are going to seed should be put in the debris container. Never throw them on the ground! They will simply place your weed seeds there. The other weeds, which are just green growth and not going to seed, may be placed back in the bed behind some of your plants which you want, as long as the air is dry and they can shrivel. They will then just turn into mulch! If you allow yourself the luxury of NOT pulling the weeds going to seed and play a video game instead, you will be preparing for an even BIGGER onslaught of weeds next year.

Here is the list of Phil’s garden tasks for May…

    • Buy tender annuals and plant outside in your pots or flower beds if you are going to have blooming flowers such as Petunias and Impatiens. When a plant just lives through the growing season it is called an annual.
    • Begin moderate watering of lawns and beds. They begin drying out much more quickly this time of the year. Soak once every two weeks, more often if dry.
    • Fertilize lawn with a natural fertilizer (non-petrochemical).
    • Mow regularly. Set your lawn mower one more setting higher.
    • Thatch and renovate lawn only if you actually need it. If you use totally natural fertilizer, and not petroleum derivatives, you probably will never need to do this step as the earthworms will take care of your thatch and keep your ground, free-draining.
    • Weed.
    • If you have notches in your Rhodie and Azalea leaves you can Begin root weevil control. Safe alternatives are the use nematodes, DE (diatomaceous earth) or sticky traps on trunks of plants.
    • This is the time of the year to fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and all shrubs that actually need it. If they look good and green and you mulch them they may not need any additional fertilizer. If you are into the neat and tidy look then it is the time to remove spent blossoms on shrubs like Rhodies, which have finished blooming.
    • Prune plants that need it after they flower this month, such as a Rhododendron, if it actually needs it.
    • Plant chrysanthemums now for perennial fall color.
    • Control aphids by washing foliage with soap suds, removing by hand, by pesticides, or by promoting natural predators, such as Ladybugs.
    • Tiny holes in foliage and the appearance of shiny, black beetles on cabbage, and potatoes indicate flea beetle attack or possibly cabbage butterflies. Treat the ground around the stems with DE, spray with BT (bacillus Thuringensis), soapy water; pick them off if you can find them, or all of the above.
    • Control slugs with bait, salt, or by smashing.
    • Begin liquid fertilizing of your new annuals. annuals. Natural organic fertilizer is best. Every two weeks is optimal right after you water.
    • Later in the month, plant these warm season vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, snap and lima beans, Brussels sprouts, slicing and pickling cucumbers, dill, kale, pumpkins, summer and winter squash, onions, potatoes.
    • Spray fruit, nut, and shade trees for tent caterpillars, if present.

Be fearless, oh real estate/property owner! Tackle your land and bring it under control. Doing so can easily take the place of paying a gym to work out and it is right there at your finger-tips!

Planting and Pruning in a Northwest January

We have all walked into a fresh new year. Much is hoped for amid the rain, wind and chill. Be brave fellow gardener, the weather can be your friend!

Here are some good suggestions to help you get something accomplished in your garden in January:

  • Good time for transplanting (now that this year’s first big freeze has eased).
  • Plant sweet peas or eating peas for that matter if you have a place open in the garden and if your yard isn’t frozen or covered with snow. If you wait for warm weather the insect and fungus enemies of peas will be ready for you. If you plant now, the enemies are asleep and you can get a jump on them. Plant peas where the soil is well drained and workable.
  • It is still too early to start seeds for spring vegetable transplant.
  • Water landscape plants underneath wide eaves and in other spots protected from rain; monitor during the winter.
  • Moss appearing in your lawn means too much shade, low fertility, soil compaction, or a thin stand of grass. Now is the time of the year to decide what to do. Your options are to get rid of the lawn or kill the moss and encourage the lawn. If your trees are getting too big and shady, then the first option to remove considerable amount of lawn might be the best solution.
  • Gather branches of budding quince, forsythia and flowering cherries and bring inside. The warmth of the house will force early blooming for a lovely bouquet.
  • Monitor houseplants for correct watering and feeding; guard against insect infestations, clean dust from leaves. Use a low-level fertilizer like Oxygen Plus.
  • Winter pruning is now upon us. See our last year’s blog on this subject: “Winter Pruning, It’s All About the Timing,” to read up on the particulars.
  • Check online for ideas and follow up with your local garden or nursery stores for seed and seed catalogs to begin planning this year’s veggie garden.
  • For our country friends, watch for field mouse damage on the lower trunks of trees and shrubs. Control measures include approved baits, weed control and traps.

 

The Snow is Gone: Now What?

The days after snow and ice have damaged plants, it is good to assess the situation.

Here is how I recommend doing your assessment: Plant triage!

  • Obviously, if a tree has partially fallen or has completely crashed and damaged your house and or property, you need to have it taken care of immediately! Call your insurance agent first and next hire a licensed, insured and bonded arborist to take care of it.
  • If a tree has come down and is blocking your driveway and has not actually damaged anything, and you cannot get an arborist to take care of it, you should cut it out of the way, and chop it up, or give Winterbloom a call to do it for you.
  • If a bush is leaning over a path or the driveway so that you cannot get by, you may prune it, but be judicious about it. You can cut back inside farther on the thicker branches. Be more cautious with the smaller branches.
  • If bushes are leaning over, or hanging in different directions from the snow and ice damage, and are not in the way of anything, please refrain from pruning them and wait to see how they will bud out in the spring. This is especially important if it is a spring bloomer such as rhododendron or camellia. You will want to do some aesthetic and/or corrective pruning after it blooms. If you are uncomfortable in doing this, call Winterbloom and we can come out and help you.
  • If you see some smaller bushes or perennials which are questionable in health or are damaged due to the ice and snow, do not prune them yet, but wait to see how they bud out, and at that time determine how much you should cut them back. An example of this is the fuchsia. In mild winters, they can rebud up on the stem and you will have a large full plant. Leaving them taller and waiting to cut them back until they bud out, will help you to plan how big of a plant that you want in that space. In cold winters, fuchsias may often come up only from the base of the plant and then also emerge later than usual. If you cut it back too far in anticipation of this, you may inadvertently damage the buds at the bottom or on the stem or you might forget that it was there if you cut it too short and think it a weed in the spring when it does decide to emerge!
  • Many perennials that are dormant in the winter and look ugly anyway, should be cut down to two inches tall. This can be done anytime that you do not have snow on the ground, so that you can see what you are doing, and not stomp all over the adjacent plants while you are pruning. Only prune when there is snow on the ground if it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, either wait till the snow is gone or wait till you see buds and know what you need to do.

Winter Pruning: It’s All About the Timing

Take a serious look out your windows at your back yard landscape. What do you see? Are the perennials all shriveled and black looking? Are some bushes falling over on top of others?

When you drive into your driveway, what does the front yard and entry-way look like? Is there dead and brown-looking foliage? Are there bushes trying to obscure your windows or push you off the front walkway or sidewalk?

If you imagine tackling all of this in one day, you may feel overwhelmed. However, nothing much is going to grow out there until around March and even then, just a few things will be pushing buds.

So, start with what you see when you drive in the driveway and tackle a section of that when you have a block of time. Then do the other half the next opportunity. When the front is completed, tackle the back yard. Do all of this pruning a section at a time until it is done. Lastly, take on all of those plants that may need attention that you don’t see out your windows. By the time that you do all of this, it will be March and you will have accomplished your tasks!

Here is how you can do this.

  • Cut back the perennials that are brown and ugly and leave about one inch of stem. I simply chop the foliage into two inch pieces and leave them lying on the ground, but you may want to haul them off to the recycle bin.
  • Prune and thin the late season shrubs like Hydrangea and Crape Myrtle.
  • Avoid early spring bloomers like Flowering Quince, Lilac, Forsythia and Daphne, as you will be cutting off their bloom buds, which you are looking forward to seeing! Wait to prune them until right after they bloom and then you will be fitting into their life cycle.
  • Remember to wait on roses till February around President’s Day. If the roses are tall right now and the wind is catching them, cut them back about a 1/3, but in general, roses need to be as dormant as possible for serious pruning.
  • Do not shear any of your plants unless they have tiny leaves and you want a hedge type of look. (Shears are like big scissors). Normally one will prune everything with hand clippers or loppers.
  • If you have big overgrown plants which need rejuvenating, this is the time of the year to do that. (Rejuvenating means cutting back hard with a saw or loppers, so that new growth can occur in the spring). Please note that:
  • If you do it now, you will be looking at the brown stumps till spring, so you may want to take care of this project in March.
  • If you find that you need to regularly cut a plant back this hard, it is probably not located in the right place and should be removed. A new plant or plants should be chosen to take its place, which would be more suitable and manageable.

Approaching your pruning in this fashion at the beginning of January about guarantees that it will all be done by March!

How to Take the Stress Out of Maintaining Your Yard

We’re deep into the holiday season and no one seems to have the time to cut back the perennials, grasses or overgrown bushes while neatening up the beds. Of course, the heavy rains we’ve been having also contribute to our disinclination!

Our front yard, which is visible to us as we drive in, as well as to all our guests, needs to look trimmed and tidy for the Holiday season. That is a given. However, we have learned a trick to get through this time of year: We don’t stress about the entire rest of the yard, which cannot really be seen from inside, if at all.

After the first of the year, I take a hard look at the rest of the yard space. I imagine how many weekends I have ahead of me in order to tackle the work before February 15th. That magical date is the beginning of landscapers’ spring in western Oregon; when many sleepy tender perennials and bulbs are just tentatively extending buds out into the world. It is paramount that we trim and clean before they begin their quest. This gives us about 6 weekends!

I divide the yard up into these weekend chunks, tackling a section/weekend until it has all been completed. Doing it this way, I can usually get what needs to be done in a four-hour block of time each weekend, leaving the rest for other activities.

There is always an emotional letdown after the holidays and this task fills a portion of each weekend, allowing me to retrench and to reload emotionally. It is exercise for which I do not have to pay, without holiday advertisements or digital overloads. it is out in the fresh air and rain. All of these are excellent for my state of mind as I launch into the New Year!

It’s Fall: Gardeners, Get Out Your Pruners!

Let’s talk about pruning, which is accomplished with two main methods:

  • Shearing with a pair of shears. This is normally used with plants that need to be shaped on the outside to some form like a hedge or a topiary. It is best done with plants that have small leaves or tiny foliage to really look good.  Pruning in this fashion causes a plant to thicken up and have many points of growth. Lavender, heather, boxwood and sometimes evergreen azaleas are common examples of plants that respond well to this method of pruning.  Used indiscriminately, however, this can create the lollipop and gumdrop look that some people like and most people hate.
  • Trimming, or selectively or thinning. This type of pruning is accomplished with clippers for smaller branches, loppers for thicker branches or a saw for the biggest branches.  Trimming’s main function is to select out a branch or a twig and remove it to create more internal space. The best miniature example would be a Bonsai plant.  Others that can really look good with this kind of pruning are upright Japanese maples, rhododendron (but not until it is finished blooming in the spring), or a vine maple. Trimming is pruning from the inside out. Most plants would look their best using this method. Don’t let your enthusiasm get the better of you, however, and avoid pruning spring blooming plants, such as Rhodies or azaleas during the fall. If you cut off the buds now, you won’t have any glorious blooms come next spring.

In late fall, your pruning efforts should be spent on perennials that have just finished blooming, and certain types of shrubs, such as mop head hydrangeas. Clear away the brown foliage and any seed pods (think, Echinacea, or cone flowers), if the birds haven’t already done that for you.

Here’s how I shear my lavender this time of year:

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