North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

A few words of wisdom as June winds down


As we wrap up June and move into July, several thoughts come to mind. First and foremost is the perennial question about planting, and I can tell you unequivocally that you can continue to plant just about anything all the way through the summer and into the fall. You can even plant corn as long as you do it in the next couple of weeks. Forget “knee high by the fourth of July.” A short season corn will still ripen for us in late September if it is planted by the first week of July.

The one single trick to successful planting this time of year is to plant properly into well prepared soil and “water-in” plants correctly. This “watering-in” step is where most homeowners screw up. Dig your hole just as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Work some compost and organic fertilizer into the soil you have removed from the hole and have it ready to return to the hole. If the soil is bone dry, then fill the hole with water and let it soak into the surrounding soil first (this might take several hours). Place your plant in the hole and check to make sure the top of the root ball is level with the existing grade of the landscape. (You may need to rough up the root ball or remove part of the burlap at this time). Replace half of the soil and firm it up. Now add several gallons of water to the hole and let it soak in. Replace the rest of the soil, firm it up and make a moat (we call them watering wells) around the plant that you can fill with an inch or two of water. Fill the well once, let it soak in and fill it again--and if it soaks in really fast, fill it once more. The concept here is to saturate the soil surrounding the new root ball so that the plant has enough water to draw from for several days. When this is done properly you should only have to water once or twice a week, and after a month you can remove the watering well, grade out the dirt and finish off with some compost or bark mulch. It’s that easy.

With the recent rain I bet many of you are wishing you had heeded my advice several weeks ago to “stake up now or forever hold your peas.” Loosely translated, that means that tall growing plants like delphiniums and peonies and peas have probably flopped on the ground after the recent downpour and so now you are in damage control mode. Pick up what you can and harvest the rest for a lovely bouquet in the house. Some of these perennials will re-bloom if cut back now and fertilized, so all is not lost.

Dazzling dahlias are arriving. For those of us who are organized and planted our dahlia tubers back in April, please ignore this paragraph. But for the rest of us (myself included) that work better on a “just in time” approach, the good news is that garden centers are now stocking blooming dahlias ready to plunge into our gardens and enjoy all the way until frost. You can also buy other heat lovers like Canna and Colocasia and lantana and bougainvillea and chocolate cosmos and zinnias and many others, so pick a few of these great plants to add some spark and drama to your garden this summer.

No garden would be complete without some wildlife, and the birds and the bees and the butterflies are just what we need to make that happen. Join us this coming Saturday, June 29, at 10 a.m. for an interesting and informative class on attracting these creatures into our gardens this summer by our resident designer Marti Civarra. Advance registration appreciated.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at


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