The second week of June is when your tulip bulb greens are at their ugliest — but resist the urge to purge.
Leaving the foliage of spring-blooming bulbs will ensure that the flowers will return next spring. Crocus, daffodil and early tulips are probably safe to clean up now.
Here’s a way to test if faded foliage is ripe enough to remove: Grab the yellow leaves and tug gently. If they are easy to pull off of the buried bulb, it is time to clean them up.
But remember there are no plant police. If you are sick of fading tulip greens you have every right to cut them to the ground immediately.
Buy fresh spring-blooming bulbs every fall and enjoy one of life’s inexpensive luxuries.
June is also the month when rose-growing problems get the most questions.
Lots of sun, air circulation, fertilizer and water is the easy answer to growing healthy rose plants.
But wait, there’s more:
Q: The lower leaves on my rose plants are turning yellow with black spots. I assume this is black spot disease. What is the cure?
A: Yes, black spot on roses is the most common complaint in Western Washington. Blame it on the rain.
Now get to work removing the infected leaves, pruning any inward-facing branches to improve air circulation and then spraying the remaining leaves with a mix of one tablespoon baking soda to one gallon of water. You can add a few drops of horticultural oil to the water and baking soda to make it stick better.
This kitchen-cupboard remedy works about as well as a fungicide spray that you can buy at the garden center. Neither will give spectacular results and is a preventative, not a cure.
Consider growing more disease-resistant roses or planting other plants in front of your roses to hide their ugly lower halves.
Q: I notice that something has been eating the leaves of my rose plants. I do not think it is slugs, but the holes are along the leaf margins and sometimes near the center of the leaf. It is getting worse — please send help.
A: Help is on the way! Get a magnifying glass and turn over a new leaf — and a leaf that has bite marks. See if you can find a tiny green worm on the underside of the damaged leaves. Squish him with your fingers.
This method is preferred over spraying with an insecticide because it leaves fresh meat on the leaves, which will attract predators to your roses that will finish feasting on these wiggly little guys. Tiny green worms are actually the larvae form of the saw fly and not hard to control.
Q: I am getting aphid on my roses and do not want to spray with a poison, as I have lots of pets. I heard you say you can just squish aphid with your fingers, but there are too many and I have too many rose plants. Anything safe that I can spray to kill aphid?
A: Spray with a strong jet of water. It washes off and also bruises the aphid so they can’t colonize the entire rose plant. A trigger spray bottle with a drop of Ivory soap and warm water also can be sprayed onto any aphid colony and the soap will skin the aphid alive! Don’t use any spray on a hot and sunny day or your roses could suffer leaf scorch.
Q: How late can I plant roses into my garden? I see nurseries still have plants for sale, but I thought you are supposed to plant roses in the winter when they are dormant.
A: You can plant container-grown roses any time of the year. Buying roses now from a nursery is the best way to see the exact color, smell the exact fragrance and see how disease-prone certain varieties are.
You can leave your newly purchased roses in the pot until fall or transplant them into the ground immediately. Just choose a cool day or do the transplant operation after sunset so the plant has time to rest after surgery.
Send questions for Marianne Binetti to P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. For a personal reply, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.