Advanced Master Gardener Susan Pelton from Enfield offers the following timely tips for your yard and garden:
June is a great month to be outdoors in your yard as there are plenty of gardening activities to keep the whole family busy. Look at the early-flowering shrubs in your yard: many of them may need some pruning at this point. Early blooming shrubs such as lilac, azalea, and rhododendron should be pruned af-ter they have finished flowering. Pruning these too late in the season will remove the flower buds for next year. Evergreen shrubs and hedges can be pruned in late June or early July. Remove just enough of the new growth to shape the plant.
Containers and pots should be cleaned and disinfected with a 10:1 water and bleach solution before being refilled with this year’s plants. Once containers and pots are clean, they can be filled with flowering or fruiting plants. Even apart-ment dwellers can grow vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplant or herbs such as rosemary, basil, cilantro, or thyme in small outside spaces using patio pots or window boxes. Containers may need wa-tering daily if the weather is very warm.
Filling nectar feeders is an activity that even young children can help with. Check out the Audubon Society website for ideas to attract hummingbirds to your yard. Other birds and wildlife will eat ripening strawberries, so this is a good time to cover strawberry beds with net-ting.
Existing compost piles can be turned and aerated to speed up the decomposition process. Building a backyard composting bin is a good weekend project that can benefit your yard for years to come by turning kitchen and yard plant waste into usable soil. The UConn Soil and Nutrient Analysis Laboratory has detailed instruc-tions for composting and constructing a bin. Mature compost can be spread in garden beds or around fruit trees.
Once the nighttime temperatures are 55°F and above it is a good time to get those warm weather crops into the garden. Beans, cucumbers, and squash can be di-rectly sown into garden beds while tomato, eggplant, and peppers do their best when transplanted from established seedlings. Most home gardeners purchase these seed-lings from local garden suppliers or big box stores, all of which have plentiful varieties to choose from.
To ensure a profusion of color in your landscape sow the seeds of fast-growing annuals like marigolds, zinnias, and cos-mos directly into garden beds or contain-ers. Early June is a great time to plant summer-flowering bulbs such as cannas, gladiolas and dahlias.
Learning about essential oils (real, 100% pure oils) can be fulfilling and your research put to good use to enhance your home, your health and beauty routines, and to make your own natural cleaning products, many with antiseptic qualities. You can even concoct a simple formulation to take with you when you travel, especially on airplanes, that will reward you with a refreshing smell, and many believe will help ward off a variety of common ailments (note that we are not saying this will prevent the spread of the coronavirus.)
An essential oil is a concentrated oil derived from various parts of a plant, and is usually extracted by steam distillation or cold pressing. They are commonly used in the manufacture of perfumes, soap, incense, cosmetics, as a flavoring, for aromatherapy, and in household cleaning supplies. They are also credited with having therapeutic properties for a wide range of ailments. Did you know, for example, that tea tree oil is a strong immune system stimulant, and pos-sesses anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties? It comes from a shrub or small tree in the Myrtaceae family, and has needle-like leaves (similar to cypress), with the majority of the essential oil coming from Australia.
Peppermint is known for its use as a natu-ral stimulant, or “pick-me-up.” It also is an anti-inflammatory agent, and has antispas-modic, antiseptic, and analgesic properties. Its antiseptic properties make it useful dur-ing cold and flu season, and like eucalyptus, it is an expectorant. It is of course used as a flavoring, and many enjoy its familiar scent, especially around the winter holidays!
The ever popular lavender can be used to break up phlegm, relieve sore muscles, and assist in getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, lavender is listed with tea tree, eucalyptus, clove, and peppermint as being among the most effective essential oils to use during the regular cold and flu season to help alleviate symptoms.
There are many websites that can give you information on the properties and uses of essential oils. It would be wise to check a reputable medical website such as www. mayoclinic.com, www.webmd.com, or the National Institute of Health site at www.nih. gov for information on any contraindication a specific oil may have. Pregnant women should exercise caution when using the oils on themselves or on their babies.
Try these simple concoctions
FOR TRAVEL Fill a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid with cotton balls. Add the following: 8 drops eucalyptus oil
(Eucalyptus globulus,) 5 drops tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia,) and 5 drops peppermint oil (Mentha piperita.) Every hour or so during your trip, uncap the jar and take a deep breath of the refreshing, antiseptic aroma.
A HOUSEHOLD CLEANER (there are many!) In a glass spray bottle, combine 1 cup of water, ½ cup of white vinegar, 15 drops each of lemon and tea tree essential oils; swirl it around and spray on surface. Wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. Use on countertops, cabinets, doors, and many other surfaces in the house. Search on-line for other cleaners using your favorite oils.
Also try Placing a few drops of your favorite essential oil on your vacuum cleaner bag, or place on a cotton ball and place in canister before vacuuming; use an electric diffuser and add your oil of choice to scent an entire room; put a few drops of lavender oil on your pet’s beds to help them relax and to dispel odors; make your own high quality bath salts and bath oils. There are so many ways to use essential oils…have fun doing your own research and putting your new found knowledge to great use!
Finding your “roots” has become a popu-lar undertaking, and maybe now is the time for you to start “digging.” Learning about your family history, in addition to being fascinating, is important for reasons such as creating a sense of connection, developing a sense of personal identity, basic humanity, and diversity. It can give people an idea of where they came from and how that might influence their family today. It can help keep memories alive, or surprise us with new discoveries. It is a source of knowledge of and hopefully, pride in your ancestors. Here are tips from Family Tree Magazine to get started: Gather what you already know about your family; talk to your relatives; put it on paper; search the internet and explore specific websites. You can Google search tips for genealogists. Family Search. org has the largest collection of free geneal-ogy records, and Ancestry.com subscribers can search from home the site’s millions of records. Some local libraries are offering an opportunity to access Ancestry.com for free during the coronavirus lockdown…check it out!
It’s a great time to start or complete those sewing or craft projects, scrapbooks, model trains, woodworking…whatever your interests are! Take advantage of any extra time at home to indulge in whatever makes you happy or productive. Seamstresses may want to sew up some face masks for personal use, or to donate to one of the organizations requesting them. There are several videos on-line with simple instruc-tions on how to do this…just do an internet search on “how to make a personal face mask.” If you don’t have a stockpile of sup-plies at home for your personal interests, there’s always the internet!
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