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- If you haven't done it yet, mulch your plants now, before the summer heat hits. A cover of mulch can save water, discourage weeds, keep roots cool and soil loose. Use bark or wood chips, straw, pine needles, compost, dried leaves, or use newspaper covered with 3" wood chips as a "smother mulch." Remember to keep all mulch away from direct contact with plant stems and the trunks of trees and shrubs.
Year-Round Kitchen Garden:
- Peas begin bearing in May. They should be picked at least twice-weekly, or better, every other day or so, to keep producing.
- After the flowers fade, cut chives to the ground to get rid of inedible flower stems. Feed the plants lightly to stimulate new growth.
- Nylon netting or very light row covering can protect young plants against squash borers, cucumber beetles and cabbage worms - but remember to remove the covering while the plants are flowering to let the bees in for pollination.
- A strong spray of water can be used to dislodge small pests like aphids and spider mites. If that doesn't work, try a homemade hot pepper spray. Take care with insecticidal soaps or oils. They may also diminish your beneficial insect population, so if you choose to use them, target only the offending pests and avoid overspray.
- In areas with acid soil, try spraying your tomatoes with a calcium solution - not only does it help prevent blossom end rot, but may also increase the plant's resistance to fungal and wilt diseases.
- Weed and side-dress your berry patches with compost early in the month, in anticipation of sweet harvests in June.
- Twice-weekly, harvest everything that is ready to encourage plants to continue producing. Harvest the entire plant on crops that do not hold well when mature, especially spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and cilantro. To increase storage life, wash immediately in cool water.
- The weather should now be warm enough to sow or transplant out beans, black-eyed and Crowder peas, melons, winter and summer squashes, cucumbers, sweet corn, okra, hot weather lettuce mixes, tropical greens (Swiss chard, Malabar spinach and calalou, among others), basil, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers sweet or spicy, and sweet potatoes. We've got a decent length growing season in the Vancouver-Portland area, but you may still want to look for the faster maturing varieties or go for early, mid, and late season varieties for staggered harvests.
Woody and Ornamental:
- Flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned right after they bloom. Don't wait too long on the azaleas, forsythias and other spring bloomers - if you wait too long, you'll cut off next years's blooms.
- Roses need a little care in spring so they'll look their best when they come into bloom. Prune away the dead wood and rubbing branches to allow air to freely circulate through the branches (good air flow minimizes diseases). Be sure your cutting tool is sharp so that you cut cleanly. You should sterilize your cutting blades between plants (about ½ tsp per gallon of lukewarm water) if not between cuts.
Soil and Maintenance:
- Your fall compost piles should be ready to use. Mature compost is dark and crumbly with a rich 'dirt' smell.
- When turning your active compost piles, mix in the green leafy matter like spent flowers and weeds. Don't add a lot of grass - it forms mats that don't break down well and can put your compost pile out of balance. It also stinks. Also, pinecones and sprucecones don't compost well unless shredded.
- Lawns will be lush. Mow the grass high (3-4"). A mulching mower will cut the clippings fine so there's no problem with leaving the clippings lie to return nourishment to the soil. There should be no need to fertilize fescues, bluegrass, or ryegrass until the fall.
Critters Good and Otherwise
- The slug hunt continues. Cheap beer is the traditional bait for slug traps. Or, patrol the garden for the slimy beggars in the early morning or evening with a flashlight. To ease the hunt, lay out wooden planks for them to congregate under. Cut every slug in half or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
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