OUTDOORS: Digging into the joys, challenges of Memorial Day gardening

emorial Day signals the start of summer, so get out in the garden and get growing and get dreaming of the joys of summer. (Photo/Linda Corwine McIntosh)

Memorial Day is almost here which signals the beginning of summer to most Americans. For a lot of us it also signals an urge to get out in the yard and enjoy some gardening. So lets talk early summer gardening.

I’m guessing a lot of you are going to visit your local garden centers over the Memorial Day weekend. With so many great plants to choose from why not choose the healthiest ones? Look for plants that are shorter and stockier rather than taller thin ones. Check the underside of leaves for any insects. If the plant has a bit of a variegated color, even though it’s not a “variegated” variety, look for a healthier one. This plant could have a virus or insect problem.

If you’re buying bedding plants and vegetables from inside a garden center, they may need to be “hardened off” before you plant them. Taking your tender, new plants home and planting them directly into the garden on a hot, sunny, windy day can quickly spell doom for your plant. These tender new plants need to become a bit accustomed to being out in the elements, or “hardened off” before you plant them.

Setting the new bedding plants in a shaded, protected area and gradually exposing them to sunlight and winds will help them adjust. After a few days you can finally plant them in their new home.

I was in a garden center the other day and someone turned to me after reading the tag in a tomato plant and asked, “What the heck does determinate mean?”

Just so you know, determinate tomatoes are good for containers because they bear all of their fruit within a certain time and are usually smaller plants. Indeterminate on the other hand, will bear over an indeterminate, or longer period, producing tomatoes until frost. You’ll probably want to stake these plants or use a tomato cage rather than let the tomatoes lay on the ground. Strawberries are a bit similar in their growth except they’re called ever-bearing (day neutral) or June-bearing.

I’ve seen blueberry plants being sold at some of the big box stores and as much as we would like to grow them here, they simply can’t tolerate our alkali soils or water. Amur or Ginnala maple trees also dislike our soil and will not do well here. So my advice is, know what you’re buying or buy from a local greenhouse that carries plants that are suited for our area.

If you’ve never grown grapes before and want to try your hand at it, you should know that they like a sunny location and don’t like a lot of water. They require less fertilizer and water than most garden plants or bluegrass lawns. After they’ve become established, a deep watering only every few weeks is preferred.

Think back to last year’s garden. If your young little green beans and cucurbits (cucumber, squash, pumpkin) were there one day and gone the next it was probably due to cutworms. Sprinkling Diatomaceous earth (available at garden centers) over the soil or wrapping a strip of cardboard around the stem of each plant can keep cutworms from chewing off your plant at ground level.

If you have newer trees that were planted a couple of years ago, or longer, and you haven’t removed the guys it’s probably time to do so. Leaving the guys on too long will lead to a weaker tree. The tee post should also be removed or the roots will grow over the flange making it extremely difficult to remove them.

I’m already seeing a lot of aphids on plants all around town, so you might want to check your plants. If you see unusually shiny leaves, especially on your aspen trees, check for these tiny insects.

Often times they will be on the under side of the leaf, or you might find a bunch of tiny little insects lined up on the tips of your rose plant or twigs on a shrub or tree.

Chances are they are aphids. You might want to try spraying the leaves with a strong stream of water from the hose every few days for a few days to dislodge them before reaching for a pesticide.

If spraying is needed, be aware of the beneficial insects that might be around. Spraying early in the morning or in the evening when the beneficials aren’t active is advised. Be sure the pesticide that you choose is labeled for aphids. If it’s not, it could actually increase the aphid population.

Unfortunately, the early frost that we experienced last fall took its toll on a lot of trees and shrubs in the area. If the twigs snap and break when you bend them, chances are that branch or perhaps even the entire tree is not going to survive. The dead branches should be removed. If you would like information about pruning your trees I will be doing a class for homeowners on June 10. You can contact the Montrose Regional Library or the Montrose CSU Extension office for more information.

The CSU Extension office is finally up and running again after being shut down for a time due to COVID-19. Samples can be brought to the office and master gardeners are answering gardening question calls.

As busy as you might be, and as much fun as you may be having this Memorial Day be sure to take time to reflect on the day and the reason why we are observing it. Enjoy the day and I hope you have a fantastic summer of gardening!

Linda Corwine McIntosh is a commercial pesticide applicator, advanced master gardener and ISA-certified arborist.

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