Thursday, June 8, 2017

Check your soil temperature first

It has been a cooler than normal spring across much of New England. Don’t let a few warm days fool you into thinking it’s OK to plant ‘hot-weather’ vegetables like tomatoes, corn, squash and peppers. Until the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees (depending on the vegetable and variety), resist the urge. To check your soil temperature, take a standard thermometer and push its base down at least two inches into the soil and leave it there five minutes. If you want to speed warming the soil, lay down plastic over the area. Clear plastic allows any weed seeds to germinate and you can easily remove them before you plant.

Make certain the soil temperature is warm enough to plant your hot-weather vegetables

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rain = slugs!

May and early June have seen a string of rainy days in New England.  With that much-welcome rain, unfortunately, has come an equally unwelcome pest: slugs. Look over the undersides of leaves in your garden (especially low-growing perennials) and, if you see any slugs, assume there are more lurking in the soil or mulch. Skip the cutesy internet-fed slug remedies and go for what works: iron-phosphate-based pellets, available under several brand names in most nurseries.  Place them around the base of plants and replenish monthly as long as it keeps raining.

Iron phosphate is the quickest and most effective way to get rid of slugs

Remove those spent flowers

Lilacs (especially) and other spring-blooming shrubs such as rhododendron need to have their spent flowers removed so the plant doesn’t put its energy into producing useless seeds. Use bypass pruners to snip off the flowers while taking off as few leaves as can be managed. If your rhodies are getting too big, carefully snap off the new fuzzy leaves that are springing up from the old flower sites. This removes new growth, will not hurt the plant, and helps to keep your shrub at a size that fits its site, rather than covering the windows and threatening the eaves.

Removing spent flowers from lilacs and rhododendron lets the shrub put strength back into its leaves and roots rather than unwanted seeds.