During the fourth week of May, everyone gets excited about summer gardening as neighborhoods explode with color.
You can still add trees, shrubs, and potted perennials to the landscape, but don’t hesitate: you want all the new plants to develop a good root system before the summer heat hits.
If you haven’t already fertilized the lawn, do so before the end of May. A well-nourished lawn is better at displacing weeds and sending roots down to find water.
Keep planting vegetables like cucumbers, squash, and beans from seeds planted directly in the ground. Keep newly seeded beds well weeded so the seedlings don’t have to compete for water or nutrients.
Q. I have a fuchsia basket that I got for Mother’s Day. The plant was full of flowers when I got it, but now it has few flowers and no buds, so I don’t think it will bloom again. I watered it very well and it hangs in the shade. Please help. — AW, Enum Claw
A. The key to this budless fuchsia is the part where you said you watered it very well. Fuchsias love moist soil and shade, but in early summer when nights are still chilly, too much water can cause root rot and bud drop.
Do the leaves look dull and limp? Feel the ground with a bare finger jabbed to the first knuckle. If the soil is damp, do not water. As hanging baskets fill up with roots, they can demand water every day, but when plants are young in early summer they can go a week or more without water. There is no set watering schedule, so you have to feel the soil.
To give first aid to your dull fuchsia, prune branches back by a third. Then add fertilizer to the soil. Warmer summer weather can cheer up some sulking hanging baskets, so you should be hearing “this bud is for you” soon. .
Q. I want to grow roses, but I don’t want to use pesticides. I know that roses in our area often get black spot disease because of our rainy weather. Are there roses that don’t get this disease? — TP, Olympia
A. I can promise you a rose garden without pesticides if you follow a few suggestions:
- Plant disease resistant roses such as Queen Elizabeth, Flower Carpet Roses, Rosa rugose or any of the unscented pink roses. “Think pink without the stink,” is my advice for avoiding black spot disease. Color and scent are associated with disease resistance.
- Plant in full sun. Yes, roses will live in a partially shaded spot, but they’re more likely to become black spot magnets as their leaves stay moist longer.
- Give the plants plenty of freedom of movement. Confined conditions reduce free airflow and good air circulation makes it difficult for fungal spores to rest on the rose petals.
- Spread out your roses so that if one gets sick, it doesn’t pass the fungus to its neighbors. Remember the 6-foot rule during COVID? Your rose garden needs to practice social distancing.
- Fertilize often, but not too often. Fertilize in early spring after pruning, and then every four to six weeks once you see new growth. Roses are quite gluttonous plants as it takes a lot of energy to form all those gorgeous blooms.
- Be curious and get snappy. Monitor the new growth so you can pinch any aphids that gather at the growth tips, and examine the older leaves so you can remove any leaves when you see the first signs of black spotting.
- Become a tidiness fanatic when it comes to your rose plants. Fallen leaves and faded flowers should be removed immediately, as disease spores can spread there. Dispose of the waste in the household waste, not on the compost heap.
- Finally, accept some imperfections on your rose petal, but enjoy the flowers. A garden free of pesticides supports our pollinating insects, and a few spotted leaves is a small price to pay to save the world.
Marianne Binetti holds a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach them at binettigarden.com.