The end of June is a good time to stake tomato plants if you have not already done so. And if your perennials and tomatoes are already too tall and out of control, consider investing in wire cages to corral them.
In our climate, allowing tomatoes to sprawl on the ground means you will lose some of the harvest to rot once the fall rains return.
If you have snapdragons or rose plants that have bloomed and are now past their prime, you can prune off the faded blossoms, shorten the long stems and fertilize now for an encore set of blooms later in the summer.
Here’s a quick trick for easy weed control: On a sunny morning, grab a hoe and slice or hoe up any weeds that have dared to invade your garden. Let the summer sun wilt the exposed weeds and then go back in a few days and the limp weeds will be easy to rake up and remove.
Q. Can I add weeds to my compost pile? I am a new gardener and get different advice on this from different neighbors. This is my first year with a compost pile but I have purchased compost in the past and do see the great results I get when compost is added to my soil. — N. N., Email
A. Yes, and no. Most weeds, especially leafy weeds that have not bloomed, can go directly into a compost pile. Some obnoxiously noxious weeds such as horsetail, ivy and morning glory or bindweed should not go into compost as bits of their roots or seeds can survive to be spread about with the compost.
If you use a 6-inch layer of green grass clippings or fresh manure on top of your compost pile, this will heat it up so that most weed seeds and other pathogens will be killed. Your compost pile should let off steam when it is turned.
Most home compost piles are of the more passive type where garden refuse is just allowed to sit and rot over time. These slowly rotting piles that never steam with heat are more likely to allow weeds to survive. If you see that you are collecting a lot of weeds for your pile just add grass clippings in an equal amount to burn up the weed seeds.
Q. We are adding more mounded planting areas to our landscape as we remove more of the lawn. I went to a seminar you gave and you suggested using the sod that is removed from your lawn to create raised beds. How does one do this? You made it sound very easy and even showed slides of a backyard that went from lawn to no lawn with planting berms and gravel paths. We want to slowly get rid of the mowing and watering that our lawn demands and enjoy more shrubs and trees in our backyard. — M.W., Sumner
A. Removing a lawn is always easier to talk about than to actually do, as sod busting is hard work. To make the project easier, you may want to rent a sod cutting tool. If you do the job slowly, just mark out the shape and size of a new planting island and outline the area with boulders, stacking landscape stones or timbers.
Next, cover the lawn inside the borders with newspaper sections. No need to dig out the sod below. Then, cover the newspaper with sections of sod that were removed from the area that will be the new gravel pathways.
Turn the sections of cut sod upside down when you place them into the new planting bed. All summer and into the autumn add cut grass, wilted weeds, brown leaves and other compostable material to what will be the new planting bed. Before winter sets in, cap off your stacked turf inside the new bed with a weed-blocking layer of bark chips or wood chips.
Let the mound rot all winter — it will shrink down to half the size, so build your mound at least 3 feet high. Then in the spring you will have soft new soil for adding trees and shrubs.
You can speed things along by having a load of topsoil delivered and just fill in the outline of your new beds with fresh topsoil directly on top of the stacked sod. To keep weeds from sprouting in your new pathways cover them with cardboard first, then layer crushed rock or cedar wood chips at least 3 inches deep for a pathway surface.
Do not use pea gravel for pathways — small round rocks do not pack down or stay in one place and are difficult to walk upon.
Q. My fuchsia basket is wilted and no matter how much I water it continues to wilt and looks dead. It is no longer blooming and leaves are falling off. What should I do? — M.L. Tacoma
A. My sympathies. I suggest you bury it. Plants that look wilted can often be saved by a good drink of water, but if you water several times and a plant continues to wilt, drops leaves and looks dead, that is when it has reached what we call “the permanent wilting point.” In other words your plant is dead. Hanging fuchsia baskets need shade and daily water during warm weather.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.