It's Time to ...

Check your azaleas and rhododendrons to see if they need any pruning.
Check your azaleas and rhododendrons to see if they need any pruning. (iStockphoto.com)
Posted: June 14, 2014

Harvest leafy vegetables, and plant more crops. The recent spurts of higher temperatures have pushed cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce to slow down and start to develop flower stems, or bolt. Once that happens, leaves turn bitter, so start picking now. After harvesting everything, although you'll have empty spots in the garden, you can soon fill them with new crops, planting either seeds or transplants. If planted now, quite a number of vegetables can provide a bountiful harvest through the fall, including beans, beets, carrots, chard, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, summer and winter squash. Now that the soil has warmed up, the rate of growth will amaze you.

Prune azaleas and rhododendrons. These shrubs gave us quite a wonderful show all through May. As the flowers fade, take a look at the shrubs to see if any pruning is needed. This is the time to do it before next year's flower buds form. You'll need to prune any dead, diseased, damaged or crossing branches. Be sure to maintain the overall shape of each plant. And if you don't see anything that needs pruning, consider yourself lucky and move on to another garden task.

Count the number of clematis petals. Although I'd often heard that you could get clematis to bloom more vigorously by pruning the vines, figuring out the best time to do it always confused me. That is, until a year ago, when I learned the secret. Clematis can be divided into two categories - eight petals (or, technically, sepals) and six-or-less petals. The eight-petal varieties bloom in early spring on last year's vines and should be pruned after blooming is finished. The 6-or-less petal types bloom in summer on new wood, and you should prune these vines in late winter. So count those petals when your clematis is flowering. Even if you miss the best pruning time this year, you'll never be confused again.


Patricia Schrieber is director of education

for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) ( www.phsonline.org),

and co-owner of Valentine Gardens ( www.valentine-gardens.com).

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