Marianne Binetti: Full speed ahead with vegetable planting

On GardeningJune 11, 2014 

The weather is really heating up, and so are reader questions.

But first, advice about your summer vegetable garden.

Right now is a safe time to plant all your summer annuals and vegetables into the garden.

True heat lovers such as tomatoes, basil, eggplant and cucumbers will do best in areas that absorb and release heat at night.

That means save the west-facing side of a brick house for potted tomatoes and try to use a clay, metal or black plastic pot if you grow heat-loving plants in containers.

A container that holds and attracts heat will increase the yield. Save your wooden and light-weight foam pots for flowers and vegetables that like cool roots such as hydrangeas, lobelia, clematis, lettuce and other leafy crops.

Now for those reader questions.

Q: Can you tell me what plants like coffee grounds around their roots? I do not have a compost pile but want to put my used coffee grounds to good use. — P.P., Puyallup

A: Coffee grounds will perk up any acid-loving plant and any caffeine left in your coffee grounds will repel sluggish creatures such as slugs and snails. (They hate to be hyper.) Use a thin layer less than one inch deep and rake ever so lightly into the soil beneath rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, pieris, heathers and evergreens such as cedar, hemlock and spruce.

Q: My wife and I planted dahlias and Gerber daisies in a window box. Now the biggest flowers on the dahlia plants are starting to die but I do see new buds coming. What is the best way to remove these blooms without harming the plant? — C.G., Email

A: I use a pair of kitchen scissors to get snip happy and remove the faded blooms from all summer flowering plants.

That is called “deadheading” and it keeps your dahlias pumping out the flowers up until the first frost. You also will need to deadhead the Gerber daisies when the oldest blooms begin to fade. Just follow the stem to the base of the plant and remove the flower and the stem to encourage more growth.

If you did not use a potting soil with fertilizer you will need to fertilize all your potted plants to keep the party going.

Slime alert: Both Gerber daisies and dahlias are slug magnets. Check under the leaves for tiny slugs and snails if you see holes in the foliage.

Yes, slugs can even climb the walls and get into a window box.

Q: Can I grow hydrangeas in a large pot? I see them blooming in yards all summer but I have no more room in my garden and want a hydrangea on my patio. Thank you. — S.N., Renton

A: Yes, hydrangeas grow heavenly in pots as long as you remember that they love moist soil and protection from the hot afternoon sun.

Pots that stay cool, such as wooden half barrels or light weight foam pots, are ideal.

Use a large pot at least 24 inches wide and deep. Hydrangeas also love peat moss added to the soil to keep it moist.

I recommend you invest in one of the more expensive “Endless Summer” hydrangeas because these flower on both old and new wood. This means if the hydrangea grows too large you can cut it back hard in the spring and still get lots of flowers the same summer.

Meet Marianne

June 21: The Enumclaw Garden Tour, featuring seven gardens. The event benefits the Enumclaw Region Healthcare foundation. Tickets are $15 presale; $20 at the door. Tickets at enumclawrhf. org or call 360-802-3206

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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