In the vegetable garden, it's finally time to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melon, summer and winter squash.
Maybe use cutworm collars on tomatoes, eggplant and peppers as cutworms can chew off your plants just above ground level but can be deterred by a simple collar of stiff cardboard or a bottomless can pushed one inch or more into the soil around the plant’s stem.
Side dress the beds of perennials such as rhubarb and asparagus beds after the harvest is finished with composted manure or other organic fertilizers. These plants are heavy feeders and need to replenish their reserves for next year.
Blueberries come in two main types: highbush and lowbush. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is an upright shrub native to Eastern Canada and the Eastern and Southern United States, where it grows in moist woods, bogs, and swamps. The shrub has a rounded habit and grows 8-15 ft. tall. V. corymbosum 'Northland' (pictured above) is a petite cultivar (3-4 ft. tall and 4-5 ft. wide), making it suitable for urban gardens and even containers. It is also known for excellent winter hardiness.
When your rhododendrons (and remember azaleas are rhododendrons) are finished blooming, remove the dead flower heads. The plants will look better and not waste energy producing seeds you don’t want.
When your bearded iris finish blooming, it’s time to divide them. Dig up the entire clump of tubers and divide it into two-armed ‘fans’. These will provide a good display next year. Because you have reduced the roots, also cut the foliage back by half. And discard any tubers that show signs of iris borer infestation.
Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is a woody ground cover shrub that spreads by rhizomes. The shrub grows 6-24 inches tall and thrives in dry poor soils.
Both types of blueberries grow in full sun to part shade and prefer acidic soil. Pinkish white, bell-shaped flowers appear in May and are pollinated by numerous native bees including bumblebees and solitary bees. A healthy plant produces thousands of flower buds each year, so its pollination needs are great. Ants, butterflies, and hover flies also visit blueberry flowers to gather nectar.
Butterflies and moths also rely on blueberries, which support almost 300 species of caterpillars. In Massachusetts, lowbush blueberry is the main host to the native Brown Elfin butterfly (Callophrys augustinus), pictured at left. Eggs are laid on the host flower buds, and larvae bore into and later feed on the flowers and fruit. Many mammals and birds also rely on blueberries as a food source.
As the days get longer and hotter, make absolutely certain your garden doesn’t dry out! Plants under stress will not provide what you are growing them for. Pine needles, shredded bark, and leaf mold are all attractive beneficial mulches for flowers and vegetables that reduce weeds and preserve water. No more than two inches of mulch! Too much is as bad as too little!
NOW is the time to prune spring blooming shrubs before they set next year’s flowers. As you prune, use this clean-up process to also set the future shape of the plant. Left on their own, most shrubs want to get larger than the space you’ve allotted them. Your spring pruning will ensure the plant stays in the site as you envisioned when first planted.
Both blueberry species produce elliptical leaves that are glossy blue-green in summer and turn a vivid coppery red in the fall, adding to their ornamental value as a garden plant. Blueberries can be used in shrub borders or as a hedge, and do well when paired with rhododendrons and azaleas, which prefer a similar acidic soil. Highbush blueberries are often recommended as a replacement or alternative for invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus).It won’t be long before blueberry season arrives in New England. The delicious and nutritious fruit that we know and love derives from a native plant that is not only an excellent addition to ornamental gardens but also provides important support for native pollinators and other wildlife...