University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
USING RAIN BARRELS AND OTHER JUNE GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Using rain barrels to collect and conserve water, pruning rose
suckers, and preventing tomato blossom end rot are some of the
gardening activities for this month.
If you’re not familiar with rain barrels, these are typically
55-gallon drums or similar large containers used to collect
rainwater, typically off roofs through modified downspouts. They
continue to increase in popularity, with some you can buy painted or
even of plastic to resemble large clay urns. Water from these is
fine for flowers and shrubs, but may be questionable for edible
crops. Since the water comes off roofs, it may contain
petrochemical compounds from asphalt shingles or treated wood
shingles, air pollution fallout, or waste from birds and squirrels.
If you want to use rain barrel water in the vegetable garden, avoid
getting it on the foliage or fruit, but water the soil instead.
Some collect a “first flush” of 5 to 10 gallons, which contains much
of any possible waste, and use it for non-edible plants. If using
in the garden, rinse any fruit or produce with potable water prior
to consumption. Keep your rain barrel cleaned periodically, and at
the end of the season in particular.
On grafted roses, any growth that originates below the graft union
-- called suckers -- will not be what you bought the rose for. The
foliage may look different and the flowers will be inferior, often a
different color, to flowers on shoots growing above the graft. Clip
off any sucker growth because it saps energy from the plant. These
shoots are usually quite vigorous.
Blossom end rot shows up as dark, sunken spots on the blossom end of
tomatoes, peppers, and squash. It's caused by a calcium imbalance in
the plant -- the soil may have adequate calcium, but the plant isn't
able to take up enough to supply the rapidly developing fruit. To
minimize the problem, keep soil evenly moist, apply a layer of mulch
to conserve moisture, don't over fertilize (avoid high-nitrogen
fertilizer), and avoid damaging plant roots while cultivating.
"Indeterminate" or vining tomato plants produce many suckers -- new
shoots that start where a branch connects with the main trunk.
Removing suckers will decrease the number of fruits produced, but
the remaining tomatoes will be larger and will ripen sooner.
If you're using a string trimmer to trim around trees, be careful
not to damage the tree bark. Repeatedly striking tree bark with
weed whacker strings opens the tree to infection, and may over time
kill the tree by cutting through the tender bark. Technically, this
is known as “girdling”. Mulch around trees so you don't have to
trim close to the trunk, or place tree guards on the trunks. Just
make sure you don’t pile mulch up around the trunks creating a
“volcano” of mulch. This can smother the trunk, harbor insects, and
possibly kill the tree over time.
If you are looking for a new peony, check out ‘The Mackinac Grand’.
This won the 2013 gold medal from the American Peony Society, and
was named 2014 Peony of the Year. Released in 1992, this early to
midseason herbaceous peony has warm red, semi-double flowers with
yellow floral parts (stamens) in the center. It has strong stems,
so shouldn’t need staking.
Aspirin water has been found to promote healthy growth and enable
plants to stand up to diseases, stresses, and some insects. Dissolve
one or two regular aspirin tablets per gallon of water, then spray
plants. One time is all that's needed.
(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist,
author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; CharlieNardozzi.com).