Garden Journal columnist Ron Kujawski began gardening at an early age on his family's onion farm in upstate New York. Although now retired, he spent most of his career teaching at the UMass Extension Service.

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Large daylily blossoms with prominent pollen producing stamens, the male organs, and the large single pistil or female organ make breeding of new varieties an easy venture.

Confessions of a Compulsive Plant Buyer: I admit it. I can’t resist buying a plant, usually an herbaceous perennial, whenever I’m at a nursery or garden center. Frequently, this is done without any forethought and I soon discover that there is no place to plant the thing. Too often the plant will simply be left in its container, out of the way, and eventually die from lack of companionship. At other times, I’ll stick the plant in any space I can find in the yard. This makes for some interesting landscape schemes, none of which will land me a spot in the Landscape Hall of Fame. Worst of all, there is the guilt — guilt for spending money compulsively, guilt for subjecting the plants to a life of ridicule, scorn, and sometimes loneliness (You wouldn’t believe the nightmares I have!).

What’s my point with this diatribe?

Plan ahead before you make your next plant purchase!

To help avoid guilt and nightmares, here is a list of tasks that need attention this week:

  • Sow seeds of cilantro in a shady location or in a pot that can be moved about to cool, shady spots as needed. With the current trend toward very hot weather, cilantro tends to bolt, that is, produce flower stalks. When this happens, the leaves of cilantro become bitter. At that point, either pull up and toss the plants onto the compost pile or let some of the plants with flower stalks mature and produce seeds, commonly referred to as coriander. When the seeds begin to look light brown, as opposed to green, remove them from the plant. Allow the seeds to dry for another week or two and then store them in an air tight jar. The seeds may be used whole or ground when needed to season recipes.
  • Shear the flowers from perennials herbs including thyme, oregano, winter savory, and mint to encourage more leafy growth. Though the flowers do not detract from the flavor intensity of these herbs, they do slow leafy shoot development.
  • To promote growth of larger pumpkins, pinch or cut off all but one or two fruit from each plant. On the other hand, if not planning to compete in largest pumpkin competitions, leave the plants alone to develop smaller but tasty pumpkins needed for pumpkin pie.
  • Prepare to make the last sowing of beets, collards, endive, kale, kohl-rabi, bibb lettuce, peas, and Swiss chard by the end of July. On the other hand, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnips may be seeded until mid-August and radishes until mid-September.
  • Examine grapes frequently for any fruit which look black and shriveled. Promptly remove these as they are infected by a fungal disease called black rot. Next spring, examine the vines for signs of black lesions on the stems and prune back the infected vines.
  • Remove the side buds from dahlia to encourage large single blossoms on each stem.
  • Dig, divide and transplant irises that have completed their bloom. In general, irises should be divided every 3-5 years or when flower size is noticeably reduced. Plants that are not being divided should be given an application of fertilizer, e.g., a fertilizer with an analysis such as 5-10-10 or 5-10-5.
  • Don’t embarrass your hedges. Prune to taper the upper portions while leaving the lower portions broader. Otherwise, upper parts of the hedge will shade lower branches causing them to shed their leaves, leaving them naked.

PLANT DAYLILIES TO AVOID NIGHTMARES

Among the plants which do not give me nightmares are daylilies. They are tough plants, adaptable to just about any growing conditions from dry to moist soils and full sun to part shade and they need minimum care. Despite the common name of daylily, they are not true lilies in that they do not grow from bulbs. Rather, they have thick fleshy roots which make dividing the plants relatively easy. Their botanical name is Hemerocallis and at last count there are more than 35,000 cultivated varieties. One reason for so many varieties is that it is an easy plant to cross-pollinate. The blossoms are large and the male (stamen) and female (pistil) parts are prominent making it easy to collect pollen from the stamens of one variety and transfer it to the pistil of another. As such, many of the cultivated varieties of daylily have been produced by amateur plant breeders. The range of varieties includes early, mid-season, late bloomers, as well as repeat bloomers. To get a taste of daylily varieties, stop by the Berkshire Botanical Garden and take a stroll along their Daylily Walk.

CORRECTIONS

I must have been hungry when I wrote in last week’s column “Tie stems of pepper plants to steaks.” Soon afterwards, a good friend texted: “I just finished reading your column and wonder, since I’m a vegetarian, if I can tie something other than steak to my peppers? Would tofu work?” All I can say is that spellen and grammer ain’t among my few talentz.