Marianne Binetti — A chance for a second spring

The second week of August is planting time for a second spring. Our climate allows for an autumn harvest of veggies and flowers planted now for a fresh start. This means if the cool start to our summer delayed your planting of lettuce, radish and kale you still have a second chance to grow your own. Just pull out any crops like peas and lettuce that have bolted or gone to seed and add some compost or fertilizer to the soil. Next prepare the seed bed by loosening the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches and leveling the top layer. Use a rake to make shallow furrows and then recycle and use up any leftover seeds of arugula, Swiss chard, lettuce, radish, broccoli, beets and cabbage. This second planting will provide a fresh crop of greens that, with some winter protection, can last through the entire winter.

Q. My hydrangeas are beautiful this summer! If I cut the blooms to use indoors, does this mean the plant will not flower next year? P.P., Enumclaw

A. No worries, harvest hydrangeas as cut flowers all summer long because this is one way to make sure you are pruning off the two-year-old or blooming branches of your big leaf hydrangea shrubs. This would be the mop-head hydrangeas with the big round blue balls of blooms. The branches tha do not have flowers this summer will bloom next year so do not prune any bloom-less branches at this time. There are also new hydrangeas on the market called “Endless Summer” hydrangeas that flower on new wood. These can be pruned back any time and removing old blooms will encourage these new varieties to put out even more blooms.

Q. I planted the geraniums you recommended called “Big Red” and they are big and red but now the older flowers are turning dry and black. The new buds and flowers that keep sprouting still look good. What do you think is wrong? J.B., Eatonville

A. I suspect your geraniums are healthy, but in need of a good dead-heading. This means you must snap off the stems and heads of the old flowers to not just tidy up the plants but keep the energy going towards the new growth and more flower production. Dead heading summer annuals and keeping them well fertilized and watered in the month of August is the best way to guarantee flowers that will continue to bloom until the first hard frost in October.

Q. I have a few hosta plants planted in pots in deep shade near my front door. The tall spikes of purple blooms have now turned dry and look dead. Can I cut these off? B. email

A. Yes, reach down low into the center of the plant and cut off the stems and blooms from all hosta plants. You don’t have to remove the spent hosta blooms to keep these perennials healthy, but whenever you grow plants with attractive foliage — like hostas, heucheras and coleus, removing the flowering spikes allows the leaves to grow larger and keeps the plants tidy.

Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.