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In the Garden

The first or the fourth of July brings an end to some of the early spring produce which you have probably been enjoying from your garden. This marks the date when we should stop harvesting our asparagus and rhubarb. The true date that we should stop harvesting asparagus and rhubarb is June 21, the first day of summer. This year many people feel that with the cold spring and slow start of the growing season, that we deserve to enjoy these until the first and maybe even the fourth of July. It is important to stop using asparagus and rhubarb at this point because the plant needs to (in the case of asparagus, grow into a full plant) replenish itself to ensure productivity for next year.

While we need to stop using these vegetables, radishes, lettuce, spinach and if you grow herbs, are doing well and are now at their peak before the hot weather comes and they tend to turn bitter. Also the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries season is just beginning, and look like they will be fantastic this year.

This is also the time of year to do what is called aesthetic pruning. This is pruning which enhances the natural form and character of a tree or to stimulate flower production. If you feel that you have a flowering shrub such as lilac, ninebarks, forsythias, bridal wreath, crabapple, honeysuckle or viburnums that have bloomed this spring, now is the time to prune them. These need to be pruned soon after flowering, since these shrubs need sufficient time before autumn to fully develop next year's flower buds. These early flowering shrubs form their flower buds on the previous year's growth and if pruned in the early spring (before April 1, when most pruning is done) will remove the buds and there will be no flowers for the season.

Pruning arborvitae, junipers, yews and hemlocks

Arborvitae, junipers, yews and hemlocks grow continuously throughout the growing season. (Unlike spruce, pine and fir trees which have a single flush of tip growth each spring.) Arborvitae, junipers, yews and hemlock can be pruned any time through the middle of the summer. However, it is good management if this is done by the fourth of July, so you can establish a completion date. As summer lengthens, the weather tends to become drier and hotter, putting the tree under stress. Pruning by this date tends to reduce the stress to the tree.

These trees are usually shaped, and you should have an idea of the boundaries with which you want to keep these trees. Shaping should be done every year to control shape, size and fullness. If you have a pyramidal arborvitae that has two or three leaders, they can be tied together to provide added strength against heavy snow, and appear as a single full leader. These trees can become very tall and if you have them planted close to your house they should be only two-thirds the height of your house for good proportion. If they become taller than this, the top can be cut off and that desired height maintained each year.

Like all evergreen trees, the inner branches do not get light, and the foliage on these branches turns brown and dies because of the lack of sunlight. So the green is on the outer branches and if over pruned or pruned down to the brown it will not regenerate and turn green. The spiral sculpted arborvitae that you see has been sculpted that way since the tree was young, and pruned in that manner each year to maintain it.

Time for a food change

This also marks the point in the season to switch from using regular plant food, such as Miracle-Gro (24-8-16) or a like product on your annual flowering plants, to using a Bloom Booster (15-30-15) solution. This is for your flowering annuals and especially those that are growing in containers. If you have containers which are colored foliage plants and do not have flowers (coleus, variegated leaf plants, or colored leaf plants which are lime green or burgundy), continue with the regular Miracle-Gro.

Kyle Schulz is a Wadena County Master Gardener from Sebeka, and the regular gardening columnist for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.