The beginning of July is not too late to add an explosion of color fireworks to your landscape. There are still perennials, annuals and shrubs that will add summer color, sometimes right up until frost.
To make the most of July planting, remember the three most important things for a successful summer transplant: dig, WATER, plant, WATER, then mulch if you are adding a tree, shrub or perennial, and WATER.
You can still add tomatoes, squash, peppers and herbs to containers or a sunny spot in your garden and reap a harvest this summer. Look for tomato plants in one gallon or larger containers as those in smaller pots will most likely be root bound and have a harder time with the transplant operation.
You don’t need a raised bed or fancy pots to grow heat lovers such as tomatoes, peppers or squash. A recycled 5-, 10- or even 15-gallon black plastic nursery pot works well in Western Washington because the black will absorb and hold heat. Use potting soil, fertilize and stand back.
Q. One side of my rhododendron has brown spots on the leaves. The other side next to the house looks fine. I just added this plant a few weeks ago and am wondering if I should return it to the nursery. — G.B., Tacoma
A. Sounds like sunburn. The clue is that the side of the shrub next to the house looks fine. The hot sun last week fried a lot of plants, but the good news is they should recover just fine.
Pluck off the damaged leaves and consider moving the rhododendron to a spot where it is shaded from the afternoon sun. Some plants will develop a “tan” and adapt to full sun exposure but most rhododendrons prefer morning sunshine and afternoon shade. Varieties with darker leaves such as the PJM rhododendron or the Impeditum rhododendron with small, gray leaves are more adaptive to full sun.
Q. What will grow in a window box that gets full sun almost all day? I have killed begonias and lobelia even though I watered every day. — J.H., Olympia
A. Look at lantana. This sprawling annual plant will laugh at high temperatures and covers itself with more blooms the more sunshine it gets. Lantana also thrives in garden beds and on hot, sun-drenched slopes. The most common color is orange with yellow but newer varieties are now popping up at garden centers with pink and purple blooms.
Ivy geraniums are another trailing annual that can handle the heat as well as sweet potato vine that comes in lime green or dark purple, verbenas and petunias.
Q. How do you know when to water potted plants? I seem to overwater. I am a beginning gardener. — T.T., Enumclaw
A. The answer is at the end of your hand. Poke a finger into the soil down to the second knuckle. If the soil is dry water until you see excess water coming from the drainage holes. This could be every day or once a week, depending on your soil, sun, temperatures and the number of plants in the container.
Welcome to gardening and I believe that finger will soon be joining your new green thumb.
Marianne talks water
At 10 a.m. Saturday, July 9, Marianne Binetti will give a free talk on “The Unthirsty Garden” at Molbak’s Garden + Home at 13625 NE 175th St. in Woodinville. Admission is free to the event, and you can just show up. Go to www.molbaks.com for more information.