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Let’s Get Gardening in June

Photo by Jennifer Fairfield. How not to mulch around a tree.

(Publisher’s note: This is part two of this column. Part one ran yesterday.)

By Jennifer Fairfield

Trees and shrubs:

Prune back early-blooming shrubs (those that were finished blooming before the end of May) this month. This will encourage new growth and more flowers next spring.

Most tree pruning should be done in the dead of winter, but prune damaged or dead branches on trees any time.

Don’t “seal” pruning wounds when you prune trees. The old way of thinking was that you needed to, in order to keep diseases from setting in. New information has shown that it isn’t effective, and can actually cause more problems by keeping the area moist.

The only time sealing is recommended now is if you prune an oak tree any time other than in the dead of winter. The reason for this is that the flowing sap of a freshly cut oak can attract insects that carry oak wilt disease, which is deadly to the tree.

You can pinch back evergreens once they have put out new growth. Pinching the new “candles” back by half will encourage them to bush out. But don’t cut into old wood, as most evergreens won’t produce new shoots from old growth.         

It’s not too late to plant new trees and shrubs, but sooner is better – just be very vigilant about keeping them watered all the way through until the ground is frozen in the winter to give them the best chance at surviving both the dry heat of summer and the dry cold of winter.

Be sure your trees and shrubs have a good layer of mulch over their roots to keep them evenly moist and to mulch to prevent weeds. Mulch should extend out to the tree’s dripline (the circumference of the tree’s canopy), but not be placed right up against the trunk.

Mulch should also not be piled up in a “volcano” around the tree. This is counter-productive, in that it encourages rainwater to run off and away from the tree’s roots, rather than down into them, and can actually lead to premature death of your trees.

Water trees and shrubs if we aren’t getting sufficient rain. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be carefully watered for the same reason newly planted flowers need to be – they aren’t as good at taking up water while the roots are getting established. But be careful about how you water any tree or shrub. Water infrequently, but deeply. You want to encourage the roots to grow deeply, which won’t happen with frequent, shallow watering. Additionally, shallow, frequent watering can cause your plants to suffocate and slowly die.

Photo by Jennifer Fairfield. baby bird.

For the Birds:

When you are out in your yard, keep an eye out for things like killdeer nests (they build their nests on the ground), and be careful to keep activity away from them as much as possible. Also watch out for baby birds that have left the nest but not yet mastered flight. They probably don’t need your help, unless they are somewhere where they might be in danger, like in the road, but do watch for them as you go about your yard to be sure that you aren’t putting them in danger with things like power equipment.

Clean out and refill hummingbird and oriole feeders regularly. Sugar-water left out in the hot sun can quickly spoil, and become bacteria-filled. If it’s really hot, empty, clean, and refill the feeders every few days, but no less frequently than weekly.

Remember to clean out and fill your bird baths regularly. Bird baths provide your birds with a place to get a drink or a good bath, and provide you with lots of entertainment, as you watch them playing in the water. Just be sure that you are giving them clean water each day.

Happy Gardening.

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