Ron Kujawski: Chores in the garden abound


It's not just bees who are buzzing these days. Since Memorial Day weekend, gardeners have been abuzz with a myriad of gardening activities. Fortunately, with the sun setting late in the evening this month, we have a few extra hours to work on these tasks:

• Continue planting anything and everything. Water plants in pots several hours before transplanting. Also, water the planting site beforehand. Cloudy days and evening hours are the best time to plant since there is less stress on transplants at those times.

 Remove old flower stems from early spring bloomers including hellebores. Not only will the garden look neater, but this deadheading will eliminate reseeding.

 Apply a general purpose garden fertilizer or compost around spring flowering bulbs. Do not cut down the leaves of bulbs until they turn yellow or brown. Bulbs need to replenish the food reserves consumed in the flowering process this spring and they can only do that while they still have green leaves.

 Harvest leaves of basil, oregano, sweet marjoram and other culinary herbs just before using. If planning to dry the leaves, harvest entire stems early in the morning after the dew has dried. I find that the intensity of flavor, i.e. the concentration of oils, is best just before the herbs are about to flower.

 Apply a repellent to hostas to protect them from marauding deer. Though wild sources of food abound, deer are attracted to the succulent plants in gardens. Deer are creatures of habit and, once they find a particularly tasty food source, they'll keep coming back to it. By applying repellents, hopefully that pattern can be disrupted. It's best to alternate between two different kinds of repellents so that deer don't get used to one.

 Start a compost pile. Kitchen scraps and yard trimmings make up about 25 percent of all household wastes. Instead of seeing these materials as "wastes," think of them as raw materials for creating organic matter to be used to improve garden soils. "That's not a banana peel. That's potential organic matter for the garden."

 Carry a container of soapy water when working or just strolling in the garden. Many insect pests can be easily hand-picked from plants and then plopped into the water. Right now, cucumber beetles, potato beetles, tortoise shell beetles, asparagus beetles, azalea sawfly larvae, lily leaf beetles, and various caterpillars are waiting to be hand-picked. If no critters are found, use the soapy water to take a quick bath.

 Groom and up-pot houseplants to the next largest pot before moving them outdoors for their summer vacation. Since most houseplants are adapted to low light conditions, put them in a shady location or a place where they'll get dappled light such as beneath a tree.

 Place netting over the strawberry patch to keep birds from eating the ripening berries. If strawberries were newly planted this spring, grit your teeth and pinch off the blossoms and any developing fruit from the plants. This will help plants get established and ensure a good yield of berries next year.

The Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association will conduct a free gardening class Saturday morning at 10 at Springside Park, 874 North St., Pittsfield. Master Gardener Kathy DeVylder will present the class, "Dividing and Transplanting your Perennials," at the demonstration gardens behind the Springside greenhouse. Register or obtain more information by contacting Mary Ann Emery, (413) 743-4284, or Kathy DeVylder, (413) 637-1769,

Family Fun Day at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (472 West Mountain Road, Lenox) will take place Saturday, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the event is free.


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