We certainly haven’t needed to water lately. After the soil has had a chance to dry out a bit you may want to take a few minutes and pull any weeds before they go to seed. A few minutes now will save you hours later.

We certainly haven’t needed to water lately. After the soil has had a chance to dry out a bit you may want to take a few minutes and pull any weeds before they go to seed. A few minutes now will save you hours later.

We’re pleased that so many of you have called our home garden and landscape hotline with questions. We hit an all-time high in May for the most calls responded to within a one month period. Keep your questions coming!

I know it’s a busy time of the year for many of us, but I hope you have time to attend our upcoming garden tour (information below). Garden owners and our Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions.

Below we have included information about our upcoming events, garden and landscape tips for June, an article on how to harvest and dry herbs, and some additional information that may be of interest to you.

Monthly tips:

* A thick (3 to 4-inch) layer of mulch over the root zone helps maintain moisture and controls weeds. Keep mulch away from direct contact with stems. However, a thick layer of mulch around the base of fruit trees can create a wonderful home for mice and voles, which can damage bark and girdle the tree during winter. Apply a thinner layer of a light mulch such as grass clippings around fruit trees instead.

* Prune off and destroy the pineapple-shaped galls on spruce while green and before they open, to help control spruce gall adelgids.

* Attract beneficial insects to your garden by planting a diversity of herbs, flowers, and vegetables, providing shrubs for hiding, and a nearby water source.

Pest Control:

* Handpicking and/or crushing insect pests works well on small plantings. Depending on the pest, you may be picking adults, crushing larvae, or squishing eggs, especially on the leaf undersides.

* To kill borers, poke into their holes with a piece of wire to pierce them.

* A jet of water from a garden hose will often dislodge aphids. Once off the plant, they tend not to climb back on.

* Japanese beetles can be knocked into a can of soapy water, especially in early morning or late evening when they are more sluggish. Large plants and severe infestations may require insecticide treatment. Some plants and varieties are less damaged than others.

* Tomato hornworms can eat a lot of foliage in a day. They are sometimes difficult to detect because their color so closely matches that of the tomato plant so look in areas near missing foliage. When you find hornworms on a plant, simply hand pick and crush them (gloves are recommended). Occasionally the hornworm will have small, white cocoons protruding from its body. By the time these cocoons are present, the hornworm is no longer able to feed. These are cocoons for a braconid wasp parasite, which is an important natural enemy. Leave these infested larvae in the garden and do not destroy them; the parasites released from the cocoons should be allowed to develop.

* Four-lined plant bugs are common pests in gardens and landscapes this time of year. Feeding injury from these insects appears as small (1/16-inch) sunken round spots on young foliage of many herbaceous and woody plants. These spots may be brown to translucent and may drop out of the leaf, leaving a shot-hole appearance. Often injured leaves become distorted and curled. Feeding injury from four-lined plant bugs is often mistaken for a leaf spot disease. However, these spots are almost perfectly uniform and similar in size, unlike spots caused by fungi and bacteria. These insects scamper quickly when the plant they are on is disturbed. Contact our hotline for control options.

* Hollyhock Rust: When plants are dry, pick off and destroy any leaves or other plant parts as soon as signs of rust infection are noticed during the growing season. Avoid crowding plants and water early in the day so the above ground plant parts will dry quickly. If found in the vicinity the weed mallow should be removed and destroyed. For fungicide recommendations contact the gardening hotline 331-8415 ext. 107.

* Tomato blights, wilts and leaf spot diseases are promoted by wet weather and high humidity. Remove affected foliage and discard in the trash; do not compost or leave in the garden. Thin plants by removing sucker growth to improve air circulation. Cover the soil with an organic or synthetic mulch to prevent splashing of infected soil onto the leaves, and avoid overhead watering. If disease is a problem this year, consider rotating tomatoes to a different part of the garden next year, and plant disease-resistant varieties.

Harvesting Herbs:

* Without much fuss you can extend the summer herb season by preserving herbs to enjoy year round. There are several ways to dry herbs for future use. The easiest and least expensive of these methods is air drying.

* Perennial herbs can be harvested monthly from June through early September when leaves should be left to prepare the plant for winter. The top third of most perennial herbs can be cut back. This also tidies up your herb bed. Annual herbs can be harvested when full grown until frost.

* The key to good flavor is timing.  The essential oil level that provides flavor and fragrance is best just before the plant blooms.  Check swelling buds daily. After the dew has evaporated and before the sun is too high collect the young tender stems and avoid older ones. Clean stems and towel or line dry, depending upon stem size.

* After harvesting and cleaning hang herbs upside down in small bunches in a warm, dark, airy, dust free location to dry. Temperature and humidity determine the length of time needed.

* If drying more than one kind be sure to label them. You may wish to use racks or screens laying stems singly on them. To keep dust free, cover them with sheer fabric or put stems through a hole in the bottom of an upside down paper bag and hang by stems. Seed heads may be dried in a paper bag, tied shut. Add holes for ventilation.

* When leaves are crispy, strip them from stems and store them in a cool dark location. Dark glass jars are best. Oils and flavors are better if leaves are crushed right before use. Remember to use them within a year. To retain better color of parsley, dill weed, and celery leaves wash, pat dry and freeze in plastic freezer bags.

* Other drying methods include ovens and dehydrators. Microwave one layer of herbs between two paper towels for 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary add 30 second shots until crispy. You can dry herbs in a conventional oven set at 100 degrees or a food dehydrator. Storage methods are the same as for air drying.