Mid-Atlantic

June, 2008
Regional Report

Deadhead and Feed Iris

Remove dead bearded iris flowers by clipping stems where they emerge from the leaves. I like the sculptural Siberian iris seedpods later in the season so I usually leave them till autumn. Your choice to remove or leave Japanese and flag iris flowers. Certainly remove stems of rebloomers for more flowers later. Trim away dead, yellow, or brown leaves. Sprinkle compost, alfalfa pellets, decomposed leaves, or organic fertilizer (5-10-10) around the rhizomes. Leave rhizomes exposed.

Tidy Hydrangeas

By now, hydrangeas are likely well budded if not blooming. Feel free to prune away dead stems; cut them off at the shrub base. For partially dead stems, cut above a plump-looking bud. Dead stems crack when you break them and are tan or brown inside. Live stems and branches are green inside under a paper-thin tan or brown covering. To check, gently scrape a stem with your fingernail. Feed shrub by sprinkling soil with an organic, slow-release fertilizer.

Check Watering Systems

Before July's heat, check your soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems for leaks, kinks, and drips. Or call the professionals. As we leave soaker hoses inground year-round, they sometimes spring a leak or are accidentally cut when we transplant or dig out tough weeds. It's easy to cut out the leaky piece and reattach ends using metal or plastic inserts and connectors. I've switched to metal hose clamps where possible as they hold better. Replace washers at hose bibs and T-connectors. Straighten hoses to remove kinks.

Prune and Fertilize Old Roses and Climbers

Many old-fashioned roses and climbing roses bloom once a season, usually in spring or early summer. They should be pruned after flowering, not late in the season because next year's rose buds will form on this year's growth. Pruning this winter or next spring will remove wood containing flower buds ready to bloom next year.

Continue Veggie Planting

There's still time to plant seeds for warm-weather vegetables such as bush, pole, and lima beans; cantalope; sweet corn; pumpkins; and watermelon. Better to plant seedlings for tomatoes, eggplant, squash, and peppers, and dig in the eyes of sweet potatoes and white and red potatoes. Try new varieties such as the 2008 All-America selection eggplant called 'Hansel', which has clusters of miniature purple fruits (2 to 10 inches) on a compact plant that's suitable for containers. I enjoy smaller eggplants from new cultivars as they tend to be more tender and less bitter than traditional, large fruits.

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