Give Your Roses Some TLC
Although we normally think of June as the month for roses, this year in much of our region May has been the month for beautiful blooms. Once that first flush of flowers has finished, remove spent flowers by cutting stems just above a five-leaflet leaf. Keep an eye out for pests, such as aphids, black spot and Japanese beetles. Have a plan of attack at the ready for when these appear. For repeat-blooming roses, be sure to feed regularly, following manufacturer's recommendations for the fertilizer you choose. It's usually best to stop feeding by August so that new growth has time to mature before frost.
Remove Spent Blooms on Lilacs and Rhododendrons
Snap or prune off the faded flowers from rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurels. Be careful to avoid damaging the growth bud just below the flower cluster. This puts the plant's energy into new growth rather than seed production. Pinch off the step tips of azaleas to keep plants bushy. Remove faded lilac blooms to improve next year's bloom.
Have a "Sunny" Summer
There's still time to sow sunflower seeds in the garden for a fall crop. The giant oil seed types with the large heads are great feed for birds. Smaller-flowered, multi-branching varieties make great cut flowers. Cut flower varieties grow from a few feet tall up to six feet with flower colors ranging from burgundy to pale yellow. When choosing a variety for cut flowers, read the description to see if it says "pollenless," as this means the flowers will last longer and be less messy indoors.
Wisely Enjoy the Outdoors
Sunshine cheers us up and helps our bodies produce vitamin D, but it also can cause sunburn, premature wrinkling, cataracts, and skin cancer. To prevent the effects of too much sun exposure, apply sunscreen every day before going outside to garden, plus wear a hat and sunglasses. There are also clothes available that provide ultraviolet light protection. To avoid the effects of heat, drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks in the shade, preferably work outside in the early morning and evening, and wear a bandanna soaked in cool water around your neck.
It's Not Too Late for Vegetable Planting
By choosing the right vegetables for the season, you can be planting vegetables into September. The time for planting cool-season crops, like peas, radishes, kale, and lettuces intolerant to heat, is past, but there is still plenty of time for direct sowing summer-season vegetables like bush beans, cucumbers, and squash. If you're going to try transplanting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants now, try to choose cooler, cloudy, rainy weather for planting. Or set cardboard boxes over the plants during the day and remove them in the evening for about a week to help the plants acclimate.