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Opinion >  Column

Gardening: Summer chores pay off for later

Roses are hitting their stride right now. This old-fashioned variegated rose was salvaged from Pat Munts’ husband’s family farm in Oregon.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
Roses are hitting their stride right now. This old-fashioned variegated rose was salvaged from Pat Munts’ husband’s family farm in Oregon. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)

As we gently slip from spring into summer, its time to think about summer garden chores and preparing for the heat that will come in a few weeks.

The weeds have exploded with the warmer weather but are very easy to contain while they are small. Make a habit of taking a walk sometime during the day to different parts of the garden with a scuffle-type weeder and some mulch. When you find weeds, push the weeder through the soil to dislodge the weed roots and then cover the area with a layer of mulch or rearrange the mulch that is already there. Tiny weeds are easily killed when they are disturbed. For pesky weeds like bindweed or morning glory, pulling up visible leaves may be the only way to control this thug. It has a massive root system that stores a lot of energy that isn’t easily killed off.

Iris not blooming? After the middle of July is a good time to break up crowded clumps and replant the best roots you find. Use a shovel or digging fork to gently tease the clumps out of the ground and then pull them apart leaving four to 6-inch or bigger pieces with leaves attached. Replant them so the top of the root is at the soil level. Water them once a week through the summer and fertilize in mid-April next spring. It may take them a couple of years to come back into full bloom. Share the extra roots with neighbors or friends.

Spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips can be deadheaded but leave the foliage alone until it yellows so the bulbs can store energy for next year. Several years ago, while touring gardens in Chicago, I came across a garden where the gardener had spray-painted the faded allium heads different colors and then left them in the garden for the rest of the summer. It was spectacular and a great way to add color when everything else is hiding from the heat. In the fall, they could even be brought indoors for color on the gray days of winter.

Spring blooming perennials can be divided now so they have time to set new roots for next spring. To reduce heat stress, do this on a cloudy day or in the evening and water the plants in well so they can recover. They may look a little wilted and ragged for a few days but will perk up quickly.

Roses are putting on their first good show now and are loving the moderate temperatures we are having. Repeat-blooming tea roses should be deadheaded as the flowers finish and fade to encourage more flowers. Single-blooming roses like climbers, shrub and old-fashion roses can be deadheaded if needed but can also be left to produce hips for the birds. All roses can be fertilized now, and tea rose can be done again in early August. Fertilizing later than that stimulates growth that might not harden off by the time the frosts come.

Pat Munts, the co-author of Northwest Gardeners Handbook, can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.

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