Shady areas in your yard can be places of beauty and color. To make your shade garden look great, add color and texture and combine a variety of leaf shapes. There are many plants from which to choose that will add interest and color to your shade garden. The key to having a carefree shade garden is in matching plants to the site. There are three factors to consider for successful shade gardening: amount of shade, moisture and nutrients.
July gardening tips
For long-lasting floral bouquet, pick flowers early in the morning and plunge them immediately into lukewarm water. Back in the house, remove all foliage that will be below the water line and arrange them in vases of water containing floral preservative.
Water your lawn early in the day. Water evaporates more quickly later in the day, and night watering encourages disease.
Hanging basket plants need watering daily and fertilization weekly. Water thoroughly, until water runs out the bottom of the basket.
If you haven't done so, prune lilacs early this month. Prune out 1/3 of the oldest, thickest trunks as close to the ground as possible, as well as many new canes, especially crossovers.
Side dress tomatoes, peppers and squash with fertilizer as soon as flowers appear. Too much fertilizer, however, will produce lush foliage and little fruit.
Cut down any raspberry canes that bore fruit this year. They won't bear again.
Stop pulling rhubarb this month so the plants' energy goes to the roots for next year's crop. Rhubarb leaves are always poisonous, the stalks never are.
Deadhead roses faithfully, cutting back to the first 5-leaflet leaf for stronger, larger new buds If you want rose hips, stop deadheading at the end of this month.
Apple maggot control must start early in July. Spray every 10-14 days.
When looking at plant tags, keep in mind that there are different degrees of shade. Light shade has only two to four hours of shade between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and part shade has four to five hours of shade. Filtered shade may seem completely shaded but sun filters through tree branches throughout the day. Full shade lasts all day and gets reflected light. Dense shade receives no light. The tags on plants can be helpful but there are many plants marked "full sun" that will perform fine in light shade, such as campanula, peony, phlox and daylily.
Even if it seems like there is adequate rainfall, it is important to water plants growing under trees or shrubs, overhangs or sheltered areas of a house. The canopy of a large tree or overhang on a house prevents rain from reaching the plants. Thirsty tree roots compete for water with garden plants. Deep-rooted plants, like oaks, are best for under-planting. Trees with many surface roots, like birch, maple or apple, compete with garden plants for water, nutrients and space, so ground covers that are adapted for dry soil (vinca or epimedium) work well.
Plants under a tree compete with tree roots, so it is important to fertilize in spring and one or two additional times during the growing season. Adding compost to the soil when planting and as an annual top-dressing also will help.
When you design your shade garden, stagger the heights of plants by layering them according to their heights. This kind of layering occurs along the edge of natural woodland. Start with tall trees (which it sounds like you have already), then smaller ones (for example Pagoda Dogwood), then shrubs (rhododendrons, viburnums, dogwoods), then perennials, annuals, and finally groundcovers. This kind of layering offers an ideal habitat for birds because in nature each species occupies a different layer to limit competition for nesting places and food.
Shade tolerant shrubs recommended for our Zone 3 are:
1. Autumn Magic Chokeberry (light to heavy shade).
2. Diervilla (Bush Honeysuckle) full sun or partial shade is best, but it will even tolerate full shade.
3. Dogwoods: Isanti or Cardinal grow well in full sun or partial shade. Garden Glow performs best in filtered light.
4. Hydrangea araborescens Annabelle (light to partial shade).
5. Rhododendron (P.J.M.) and azaleas (Northern Lights series) prefer light or partial shade, with azaleas needing more light than rhododendrons.
6. Russian Cypress grows well in partial to almost full shade but does not do well in dense shade.
7. Viburnum (light or partial shade).
8. Yew (full sun to full shade).
Shade-loving perennials include: Lady's mantle, columbine, goat's beard, astilbe, bergenia, brunnera, cimicifuga (actaea), lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, foxglove, ferns, hellebores, heuchera, hosta, ligularia, Virginia bluebells, Solomon's seal, pulmonaria, and tiarella.
Ground covers for shade include: Ajuga (bugleweed), Asarum canadense (wild ginger), epimedium, lamiastrum, lamium, pachysandra and Vinca minor.
Shade tolerant annuals include: Browallias, coleus, impatiens, fuchsias, salvia (dwarf), and wax begonias.
You are describing what is probably powdery mildew, which is also common on lilacs, monarda (bee balm), begonias, zinnias and other flowers, trees and shrubs. It is a fungus, but each fungus is plant specific; that is, the fungus on phlox will not feed on monarda orvice versa. Fungi thrive when temperatures are cool, the humidity high and air circulation limited. The fungus rarely kills or even harms the plant, but it is unsightly. Choose cultivars that are mildew resistant and site plants where they are not crowded and air circulation is maximum.
I'm your first-time vegetable gardener with my little garden planted and growing. What do I do at this time of year?
While you wait for your vegetables to grow and mature, be persistent in weeding and watering. Weeds crowd the vegetables and take in nutrients that you want your edibles to have. Thin vegetables like beets and carrots and kohlrabi so that they are about three inches apart. Most seed packets will tell you the optimum spacing. Water consistently so that your plants get at least an inch a week. If Mother Nature doesn't provide it, you must. Sink a tin can, such as a tuna can, in your soil as a rain measure to help you assess how much water has been provided. It is best to water early in the day and deeply rather than frequently and shallowly. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to inconsistent watering. It is better to water near the roots rather than from above, which causes fungi to grow and spread. When radishes, spinach and lettuce turn bitter and begin to bolt (grow tall and send out seed heads or flowers), pull them up and compost them. In their place plant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for a fall crop. You also can still plant bush beans early in July to supplement your earlier and progressively less abundant crop. Harvest vegetables regularly so that they put their energy into producing new fruit rather than going to seed. If you have extras, share them!
Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the university. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 824-1000, ext. 4040 and leave a recorded message. A master gardener will return your call.
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