PLANNING AND PLANTING
• Check out native plants. A new program in Utah encourages gardeners to use native plants in home landscaping. Look for colorful "Utah's Choice" identification tags on plants at nurseries, which may also carry the 20-page booklet Utah at Home: Landscaping with Native Plants (or order a copy for $2.75 from Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association, c/o Linda Oswald, 1827 Princeton Ave., Salt Lake City, UT 84108). Visit www.utahschoice.org for an illustrated list of 40 drought-tolerant natives, including Utah ladyfinger and Wasatch penstemon.
• Fill a strawberry pot with flowers. Sold for strawberries, these multi-pocket containers dry out too quickly for the fruit plants, but they make attractive pots for heat-loving summer annuals such as Aptenia cordifolia, calibrachoa, creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens), Dahlberg daisy, Evolvulus glomeratus, gazania, Madagascar periwinkle, moss verbena (V. pulchella gracilior), portulaca, and trailing petunia. Fill the pot with soil, then plant in tiers, starting with the bottom row of pockets. Poke the rootballs through the holes and cover with soil. Put the pot in a sunny spot and rotate it weekly to promote even growth.
• Get mums into the ground. Chrysanthemum seedlings on sale at garden centers will rebloom in fall if you plant them now in a sunny location in good garden soil and water them once or twice a week. Leave flowers on plants so you can see where they look best in the garden, then cut them off after transplanting. To promote branching and more bloom, shear back the top few inches of growth whenever stems reach 1 foot; do this until mid-July.
• Grow the right tomatoes. Plants set fruit best when they get consistently hot days, warm nights, and regular water. It also helps to grow varieties that are proven producers in the intermountain West. Timberline Gardens www.timberlinegardens.com in Arvada, Colorado, reports good fruit set despite cool nights with 'Abraham Lincoln', 'Black Krim', 'Cherokee Purple', 'Lemon Boy', 'Pilgrim', 'Sungold', and 'Supersteak'.
• Tour Xeriscape gardens. To see successful examples of low-water landscapes, take one of the local tours ($15) cosponsored by Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs www.coloradogardenclubs.org and Colorado WaterWise Council: Denver, June 11-12; Boulder, June 25-26; Colorado Springs, July 9-10. At each garden, hosts and expert gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and provide guidance.
• Monitor ash trees. If you see skeletonized leaves on ash trees or flocks of feeding robins in the trees, or if you hear a raspy, chewing sound, the trees may be infested with brownheaded ash sawfly. Small black adults resembling wasps lay their eggs along the leaf edges, sometimes causing the leaves to pucker. To control the pale green caterpillar-like larvae, blast them off foliage with a strong jet of water from a hose-end nozzle. Visit www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05586.html for more information on this pest.
• Test your soil. If nothing is growing well in a spot in your garden, a soil test can help determine what's wrong. For $18, you can get a detailed analysis and recommendations for improving your soil from Colorado State University www.colostate.edu/depts/soilcrop/soillab.html or 970/491-5061.