Separate spring bulbs now, and sow last seeds

July 27, 2011 

The last week in July is a good time to dig up spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and tulips and separate them so you can move colonies all over the garden. This is also your last chance to plant more vegetable seeds for harvest this winter. Sow seeds of beets, broccoli, kale, bush beans and carrots and you could enjoy veggies from your own garden well past Thanksgiving Day.

This is our first year growing raspberries. I was told I need to prune them after I harvest. How does one prune raspberries? – S.B. Kent

Dear S.B.: After you harvest your berries, wait for the canes or branches that just bore fruit to turn brown or yellow. This is your sign to move in and get snippy. Cut these old canes right to the ground unless you are growing the new ever-bearing raspberries. Then remove only half of each cane. You should see new green shoots coming up in your raspberry patch. Don’t cut these off as they will be bearing fruit next year. You can tie them to wire supports as they grow long.

Quick Tip: I like to use strips of old nylon stocking to secure plants to supports.

I was given free perennial plants from a neighbor that turned out to be Shasta daisies. They are done blooming and look ugly. Now what. – P., Email

Dear: P.: Any perennial that looks ugly after it blooms can be cut off at its ankles – within six inches from the ground. Life is too short to put up with ugly plants. I figure if an ugly plant dies after an extreme pruning makeover then it wasn’t worth growing anyway. Some years, Shasta daisies, creeping phlox, and other early-blooming perennials will resprout and rebloom in the fall after a haircut in July.

Tip: The secret is to water well and then fertilize after the amputation. Then let the plant prove itself worthy by giving an encore bloom.

I have a beautiful broom plant called “Lena’s broom” that flowers with bright orange blooms and grows well in dry, rocky soil with no extra water. Every summer it forms seed pods that dry out then crack open and explode with seeds. If I collect these seeds, can I plant them to increase my supply of this ornamental broom? This is not the bright yellow Scotch broom that has made a pest of itself all over our state. – S.T., Olympia

Dear S.T: So glad you are not trying to multiply the noxious and obnoxious Scotch broom that reseeds all over. The orange-blooming broom you grow is a hybrid plant, and the seeds you see forming are sterile and will not sprout. This shrub is also short-lived like all brooms or members of the Cytisus family and even thrives in salty soil near the ocean. The best way to make new plants from this shrub is take tip cuttings from the end of a branch in early fall. Many evergreen shrubs such as rhodies, camellias and azaleas can be started this way. Cut a 6-inch section of the shrub, pull off the lowest leaves and poke the cut end into a pot of moist sand. Mist or cover with plastic to keep the humidity high for a few months. Vent the plastic so you don’t grow mold. Take lots of cuttings as only about one in 10 will take. After a year, your new plants may have enough roots to move into the ground.

Tip: Invest in a rooting hormone powder sold at garden centers for making plant cuttings. Follow the instructions and you’ll have enough new shrubs to start a living hedge.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her website at binettigarden.com.

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