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June 28, 2013

When to keep growing, when to cut back

Q: We have enjoyed growing some greens this year. Do I have to give them up very soon or can I grow them into the fall?

A: Make another trip to a seed rack right now before they’re all gone. Buy seeds now for late crops of greens and radishes and anything else that still plan to grow as the weather gets cooler. You’ve still got more than 60 days left in the late growing season, and if you have a cold frame, you could have greens year-round; delicious and so healthy!

Q: What is the best way to cut back my peonies now that the flowers are starting to die?

A: Cut just the dead flower heads after they’ve bloomed, but allow the foliage to grow all summer. In the fall, when hard frost has killed the greenery, clean out the bed thoroughly to prevent the old mulch from becoming a warm place for the winter. After a hard frost, cut back remaining foliage to about 4 inches high for the winter. Remember to remove and destroy all dead leaves and stems to prevent disease.

Q: When can I cut the old stems from all of the spring bulbs? I tied the bunches of foliage together like a teepee thinking they would look nicer over the summer, but now they look like mush or slime.

A: It’s time to gently clip the leaves from your spring bulbs. The leaves have been growing and conserving energy for next year’s crop, but now they have turned brown and their job is done for another year. Gently remove the now-soggy leaves by hand, or cut them about 4 inches from the ground. If you wait long enough, they will gently pull out without cutting. But can you stand looking at those mushy yellow leaves for another month?

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