The busy spring season has passed but there are still many tasks that can be done to improve the overall look and health of the yard.
Remove the spent flowers or seedpods on all perennial and annual plants that produce seeds. Seeds that are left on the plant to mature take energy from the plant as opposed to growing larger or producing more flowers.
All seeds become a problem when they germinate in large numbers. It is best to remove the problem before it becomes one.
Removing spent flowers was once time consuming but now many of the annuals on the market are sterile — they can be left as is.
Early-blooming shrubs set or develop next year’s flowerbuds now. By pruning now or shortly after the plants bloom, they will produce flowers next spring. If pruned when the plants are dormant, the next season’s flowers will be removed. Lilacs, double flowering plum, nanking cherries and forsythia are some of the plants affected.
It is best to do corrective pruning each year as little growth will need to be removed. Waiting until a shrub is overgrown makes the task much more difficult and lengthy a process as up to a quarter of the growth can be removed at a time.
Start by removing dead, diseased and damaged branches. Dead branches are easy to spot at this time of year as they are bare. Damaged or diseased wood can hide under the canopy of leaves but often they will produce different coloured or shaped leaves.
Always cut branches back to another branch, leaf or the ground. Stumps or stubs that are left at the end of branches are unsightly and do not heal properly. Stumps dry and rot, becoming an entrance for insects and diseases.
Next remove branches that are crossing, rubbing or are growing inwards. Before deciding which of the rubbing branches to remove, take the following into consideration: the final shape of the plant, the direction the branch is growing, the size of the branch and how many branches it is rubbing on. Keep the branch that contributes to a symmetrical shape of the plant as the goal is to have a healthy, attractive plant.
Shrubs start to look ratty when the centre becomes too dense to allow sunlight to penetrate. The problem can be rectified by removing some of the old growth from the centre at ground level. Lastly, shape the shrub to make it pleasing to the eye.
New growth, or candles, on spruce and pine are still soft, making it an ideal time to shape these plants. Removing part of the new growth will encourage the plant to fill out, becoming bushier. This is done by holding the new growth in one hand and snapping off part of the new growth with the other. Removing new growth with shears or pruners is not advised as needles are usually cut and damaged.
Always remove weeds before they go to seed. If weeds are allowed to seed, there will be many more weeds the next season. Dispose of seeds in the garbage as it is unlikely that the compost will get hot enough to kill them.
While it is important to keep up with the garden, it is also important to enjoy it. Take time to sit and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the garden.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lived near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.