Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reigning in the Rain by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

My webbed hands and feet are morphing back to normal. I no longer have to suppress quacks when I first enter the out -of -doors each day and I believe the feathers are slowly turning back to strands of hair. All in all, I consider myself lucky. Before I was a gardener the joke for extensive rain would include the phrasing ‘weather great for a duck’. Now I know there are truly dreaded creatures that have adored the weeks of wet. I can not find myself even thinking their names for fear that next time a duck I will not be……..

Just to be sure my fowl transition is able to complete its process I did seek a prediction for the coming week’s weather. The forecasted atmospheric conditions will alternate between ‘partly cloudy’ or ‘mostly sunny’ until Thursday when T Storms are forewarned. With my calculations I should be back to normal by Thursday, free of feathers and all. I briefly fantasized about basking in the ‘partly’ or ‘mostly’ sunshine. Alas, it would not be possible since my gardens are in need of me. As your garden needs you.

Blooms will abound as our plants soak in the warming rays. We, too, will have our time in the sun. With a few steps our gardens will go forth a much happier and healthier lot. Once we are no longer sinking up to our ankles in the soil within and around your beds I recommend the following.

· Remove any mummified or rotten buds
§ Too much rain/no sun often nips the flowers ‘in the bud’.
§ Some perennials will re-bloom, those that won’t the removal will allow for the energy to be absorbed by the roots.
· Gently rake away any fallen leaves and other debris that lay in layers around and under plants, especially woody or heavy foliaged plants. I do this by hand or with a hand held spring rake.
§ As our beds become full we often think that what we can’t see can’t hurt us (weeds are less noticeable). Nevertheless, spent fallen blooms and/or leaves will stay wet longer than the soil, especially if not exposed to the sun. This is a perfect environment for those slimy pests, slugs and snails (there, I said it).
§ Many shrubs and plants, Roses, Rhododendron, anemone ‘windflower’, do not like ‘wet feet’. There wasn’t much we could do about the rain. Removing fallen leaves will help keep it dryer.
· Check for powdery mildew. Phlox, Lilac, some yarrow, Peony and crabapples to name a few are more prone to pm.
§ Powdery Mildew is not fatal, just unattractive. Isn’t being attractive is what it is all about?
· Remove and destroy all infected plant parts
· Improve air circulation by thinning and pruning
· Apply Fungicide. I use Serenade Garden products.
o I also use Messenger® through out the growing season for those plants that are prone to disease.
· Don’t fertilize until the problem is corrected. Powdery mildew favors young, succulent growth
· Don’t water plants from above

Other timely tips:
· Cut back spent spikes of heuchera. This often will encourage another bloom and/or create a bushier growth of foliage.
· I have stop pinching back mums, asters and some of my sedum varieties. Pinching back after July 4th may hinder blooms.
· Shearing some perennials will offer another flush of flowers
o Nepeta, Moonglow coreopsis, ‘Fire Witch’ Dianthus are just a few.
· Think white! There is still time to plant. Last night as I looked to the gardens below, all I could see were the Shasta Daisies. The white discs appeared to hover in mid air. Astilbes such as Deutschland, Bridal Veil or the playful ‘Sprite’ are the most charming white plants to view from afar. I can not wait until I add some to my new/old garden.
· Containers are still a way to add punches of color!

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
July 12, 2009

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