Celebrate Independence Day with a fireworks display of flowers in the garden. Hardy fuchsias get my vote as the flowering shrub that explodes with the most blooms this time of year. If you’re tired of replacing that thirsty, weeping fuchsia basket each spring then consider the more upright, hardy fuchsia shrubs that come back year after year when planted into the ground. This is a good week to visit the nurseries or public display gardens to see hardy fuchsias in bloom. You‘ll soon know why the dangling blooms on these shrubs are called “ladies earrings.”
The hardiest types are the Fuchsia magellanica with the daintiest flowers that still attract crowds of hummingbirds. Combine hardy fuchsias with big leaf hydrangeas for a beautiful plant marriage in a shaded bed.
Mid-July is also a good time to fertilize the lawn with some slow -release nitrogen if you’re a lawn ranger and always on grass patrol. If you’re serious about conserving water you can just stop watering the lawn now and allow it to go dormant until fall. Don’t call your lawn dead or dormant – say that it has gone “golden” and is actually very “green” as you save both water and energy by not having to mow or water.
Q. I am sick of weeding and want to put black plastic under my bark mulch and never weed again. What thickness of plastic do I need to buy? Do you think landscape fabric works better than black plastic? L.B., Auburn
A. Step away from the black plastic. Unless you’re taking out the trash, black plastic is a nightmare in the landscape. It blocks air and water to the plants and when you use bark chips or a mulch on top of plastic, the weeds will sprout anyway by blowing in on the wind and landing on top of the mulch. I also hate landscape fabrics because they are a holy mess and holey disappointment. The tiny openings in these “weed-blocks” allow more water and air but when weeds blow in from above the roots find the tiny holes and make their way down to the soil. Then when you try to pull the weed, up comes roots, ripped fabric and mulch. So what to use as a weed block under mulch? The easy answer is dirt cheap and right in your hands. Recycle newspapers by laying them 3 to 4 pages thick under your bark chips. Dampen the newspaper sheets first to keep them from blowing away. The larger the chunks of bark or gravel you use on top of the newspaper the better their weed-blocking ability. Weeds, like politicians, will always be with us. But newspapers do the best job of keeping both under control.
Q. I made a compost pile from my grass clippings and garden clippings last year. Now what? How do I know when the compost is done and what do I do with it? I am starting to see weeds growing on top of my compost pile. R.L., Tacoma
A. It’s ready! Anytime you let grass clippings and garden gleanings sit for a year, the magical transformation of garden garbage into garden gold is done. Use a garden fork to move the compost into a wheelbarrow and pull out any sticks or debris that has not yet decayed. The dark compost near the center of the pile should look a lot like chocolate layer cake. July is the perfect month to spread a few inches of compost around the roots of all your rhododendrons, roses and hydrangeas. A frosting of rich black compost now will help these plants not only conserve water but resist disease and make more blooms.
Q. I have Shasta daisies. When they are done blooming they are ugly. When can I cut them back? Or must I leave them alone? Thanks for all your help. T., e-mail
M.B.: You can get snippy with any plant that gives you rude or ugly behavior this month. Shasta daisies are a type of chrysanthemum and even the fall-blooming mums can be snipped back this month to produce fuller, stockier plants later in the fall. Cut your Shasta daisies to within 2 inches of the ground, fertilize, water and then stand back for an encore of bright, white blooms coming your way in August.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.
For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.