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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

More information on soil preparation and mulching is detailed in Deer in My Garden, Vol.1: Perennials & Subshrubs and Deer in My Garden, Vol.2: Groundcovers & Edgers!

Santa Barbara daisyJune in the garden
Cool temperatures slow growth but prolong perennial bloom
by Carolyn Singer

June 5, 2010

My oriental poppy buds and blossoms have never been so large. While I think of this as a low-irrigation perennial, it is quite evident that repeated rains in the past several weeks have benefited the floral display.

Electrical storms have also influenced the plant growth in the foothills. Everywhere we look, landscapes are lush and beautiful. And while many perennials are blooming later than usual, by as much as two to three weeks, as long as the cooler temperatures continue, so will the bloom. A red peony in my meadow garden is in full bloom this week, And another old peony looks like it will open its buds next week.

In the rock garden, creeping thyme (Thymus) flowers are enticing the bees. The coconut thyme is just finishing its vibrant bloom, and now the caraway and red thymes are the prime attraction. With several varieties of thyme in this garden, bees have an ample supply of flowers for several weeks.

Dianthus gratianopolitanusThe many species of Dianthus emit a heavenly fragrance in June. As I sit on a rock to weed, a healthy case of spring fever slows me down. Fifteen years of collecting plants has resulted in an amazing assortment. No wonder the bees are so busy from sunup to sundown. This rock garden of unusual plants is where my propagation students spend most of their time, gathering starts for their own gardens.

With all the rain that we have had, the rock garden will not be irrigated again until mid-June, just before a propagation class. Plants should be hydrated before vegetative cuttings are gathered. Mature shrubs and trees have had plenty of water for awhile too. Hold off irrigating for at least two weeks, so that young roots sprouting from the older roots are not growing in saturated soil. A good mulch around mature plants will keep the soil surface from drying out too quickly.

In the vegetable garden, planting has been delayed by the weather. Now all the warm season crops are probably safe to plant. The tomato plants I kept inside the cold frame are beautiful and strong, growing in two-gallon containers. And yes, like many other eager gardeners, I did put out several before the killer frosts. A row cover did not prevent damage. All the leaves were killed but the stalks are still strong, so they may recover. New growth is already showing this week, so there is hope.

Because the soil in the vegetable garden is still quite cool, the mulching I usually do by mid to late June will be postponed. Once the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant begin shade the soil at their base, they will be mulched. Squash and cucumbers will be mulched after they have been in the ground a couple of weeks. Cool season crops, such as kale, lettuce, peas, and broccoli raab were mulched when heavy rains and hail continued. I did not want the storms to damage the soil, and these crops continue to grow well in the cool soil under the mulch.

mulch sweet peas nowWhile you are still in the planning stage with this year's vegetable garden, plant extra for a family in need. There are many local groups that will benefit from the bounty your garden provides. The Garden Writers' Association has been promoting their national program, "Plant a Row for the Hungry" for several years. Those of us fortunate enough to have an organic garden, and to be able to garden, will feel the significance as we share the produce.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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