Early summer gardening tips

Above and Beyond rose in Meleah’s garden.

All the rain we’ve had sure has been nice. My gardens are as lush as a jungle and I imagine yours are too. This is the time of year when many of us are doing things like dividing plants, creating new beds and planting a second round of some vegetables now that it’s getting too hot for arugula and delicate salad greens. It’s also the time to tackle some of the challenges of the season. Here are some tips that I hope you find helpful.

First, though, I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all of you who came by and donated seeds to the Little Free Seed Library after my last plea for seeds. We’ve never had so many seeds to share, and because of that I’m going to leave them out there for a while longer than usual. So come on by and help yourself.

Spotting spittlebugs

Ever notice how you walk around the garden and it looks like somebody horked up a loogie on a plant? That gross foamy mass is actually the creation of spittlebugs (Philaenus spumarius), and there seem to be a lot of them this year for some reason. Fortunately, they don’t do much harm. Even a huge infestation will cause little more than some distorted leaves. Nymphs, which emerge in April or May, create the foam to protect themselves from predators, who will no doubt be disgusted by their spitty living conditions. There’s only one generation of these critters per year, and the adults leave plants in favor of grassy areas pretty quickly. Still, if the spitballs bother you, you can blast them with the hose or toughen up and pick the nymphs off the plants by hand.

Dividing plants

Now is a great time to divide perennials. But if, like me, you dig up more than you can plant or give away in a reasonable time, save them the indignity of drying up on the driveway by “heeling” them in. To do that, just find a temporary spot somewhere in the garden where you can plant them temporarily and keep them watered. If you want to divide spring-flowering bulbs, go ahead and do that after the foliage has faded.

Protecting fruit

Looking forward to harvesting strawberries and raspberries? So are the birds. If you want to protect your fruit, try placing netting over your plants. Make sure it is secure at ground level because the little devils will happily go under rather than over if they can.

Planting and harvesting vegetables

It’s been a great year for spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, radishes and other early vegetables. But now that the weather is warming up, it will soon be time to replace them with something else that can take the heat. I like to fill that space with herbs (seed or seedlings), heat-tolerant lettuce and various types of kale and chard. Zucchini and other summer squash should be harvested with the fruits are about 6 to 8 inches long. Let round varieties grow to about 3 to 7 inches in diameter.

Scouting plants to buy

Yes, of course our gardens are full of plants. But that doesn’t stop us from keeping our eyes peeled for new plants we’d like to buy. I set my sights on adding more roses to my garden this year, and on the advice of rose breeder and horticulture professor David Zlesak, I bought a ‘John Davis’ climbing rose. Hardy to Zone 3 (we are Zone 4) this pretty, old-fashioned-looking rose has pretty pink blooms and grows to about 7 feet tall. I’m going to train it on the same fence where David Zlesak’s own rose, Above and Beyond™ (Rosa ZLEEltonStrack), is currently in full bloom.

David spent years working on Above and Beyond, which has gorgeous semi-double, apricot-colored flowers that bloom earlier than many roses. Also hardy to Zone 3, it can be grown as a shrub or climber and plants are resistant to fungal diseases. Featured on our south-facing fence, that rose has stopped more people in their tracks this year than probably any other plant in our garden.

Check out Meleah’s blog: www.everydaygardener.com for more gardening tips or to email her a question or comment.