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Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 7, 2013

Garden Tips

Change your garden? Change your schedule

by Jack McKinnon

June is deadheading month as is May, July, August and the rest of the year when flowers are in bloom. Deadheading is the process of removing spent blossoms from your plants to stimulate new bloom and prevent fruiting. For flowering plants, this technique can keep your garden looking fresh and colorful well into the fall. I will give you some deadheading tips this month as well as other chores and activities to keep that spring look.

Here are the tips:

1. Make deadheading, pinching back and cleanup a daily routine. I like to get it over with in the morning. It keeps us in touch with our plants and allows us to see problems early and act early.

2. If you don't have a regular fertilizing program, start one. Fertilizing is the single-most neglected gardening technique I see in my garden coaching business. Learn about fertilizers by reading the labels of fertilizer containers, reading your garden book and asking questions of those who know.

3. If you have a leaning toward organic fertilizers and gardening techniques you need to do more homework than most people. The rewards are significant but at this time the majority of gardeners haven't gotten there yet. By reading and talking to organic gardeners you can increase your ability to garden while improving your soil and reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides.

4. We have been after snails for months now and some people are still getting them over and above the acceptable amount. If you have already tried ducks, beer, boards, neighbor kids at one cent apiece and flying lessons then you may need to resort to bait. Be careful, read the labels and keep them out of reach of children, pets and anything you do not want poisoned. I recommend snail bait only as a last resort but sometimes it is the only way to keep control. Ask at your local nursery for the best product for your situation.

5. Perennials provide color, stability, low maintenance and a good foundation for your garden. Here are some that work really well and will make your garden a spectacular showplace. For shade try Japanese anemone, dicentra, heuchera, hellebore and astilbe. For sun try penstemon, salvia, lavender, geranium, catmint, evening primrose and gaillardia. For foliage interest try artemisia, lamb's ears, Dusty Miller, sedum and any succulents that strike your fancy.

6. Weeds need attention all year round. Get them out while young and you reduce your work by as much as 90 percent. At least pull them before they go to seed.

7. Keep your mulch fresh. Know that gardeners will blow your mulch away. Tell them to stop it. Mulch keeps moisture from evaporating, keeps weeds from germinating and makes pulling them much easier. If anything, have your gardeners add to your mulch by dumping leaves they pick up onto the bare soil around bedding plants.

8. Cut back or dig out and replace old shrubs. When plants like lavender, artemisia and salvia get woody it is time to cut them back or replace them. Don't cut rock rose too hard; it cannot tolerate it.

9. Plant greens to eat. I got a pack of seeds at Common Ground in Palo Alto with 11 species of greens. I will plant them both in six-packs to be transplanted into pots and in the ground for a trimming bed. There is no better salad in the world than one you just picked from your own garden.

10. Remember that your garden is a reflection of who you are. If you want to change your garden you will need to change your schedule. It may only be a few minutes a day to start, and then a few more in a week or two but the change will make a difference and everybody will notice.

Good Gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687 (cell), by email at Visit his website at


Like this comment
Posted by Cathy Kuduk
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I found this to be an excellent resource for gardeners in all communities in this area of CA. I especially felt supported in the "deadheading" dilemma and always like hearing that it is the right thing to do and the thing to do often. Sometimes when most of the flowers are gone and the buds are barely showing, I question whether I did the right thing. I did "deadhead" a delphinium as my local garden supplier suggested however, and nothing has happened for over 3 weeks. Is this perhaps a "once in a season" bloomer? Or, have I done something wrong? Any advice?

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

What is "Common Ground" in Palo Alto ?

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Posted by former veggie gardener
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Common Ground is a local institution, especially for vegetable growers and anyone interested in organic / sustainable.

Used to take my kids there to buy "penny seeds" (by the measuring spoon!) I would buy any tools from them - they always had better quality than the mass produced brands the box stores carry -- tho the boxes are cheaper, a good English spading fork lasts much longer and is a far greater joy to use. Best handmade gloves.

They are wonderful folk!!!

Web Link

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Thanks "former veggie gardener"