Now Is the Time to Deadhead and to Compost

It is time for the first round of deadheading in the garden. Early blooming plants are now setting seed and will benefit from removal of the seed heads. Some examples of common landscape plants that have spent flowers now and are developing seed are shrubs such as lilac or perennials such as peonies.

When plants form seed, most available resources go towards promoting successful reproduction. If the seed heads are removed, then those resources will be reallocated into root and shoot production. Increasing the vegetative portions of the plant improves the opportunity for the capture of light and in turn carbohydrate reserves. Having those resources captured and stored in the roots will help the plant withstand stresses such as drought and heat. Overwintering success is improved too. An added benefit of deadheading is that some perennials will bloom again.

Spring blooming blubs such as daffodils or hyacinths are starting to dieback. Once the foliage begins to turn yellow or chlorotic, it is time to cut them back. In the vegetable garden, remove flower buds from crops that are harvested for their vegetative portions. Some examples of root, stem and leaf crops are radish, kohlrabi and spinach. Removing the flower buds will help maintain the flavor and texture of the produce.

After collecting all of the debris from deadheading and trimming, consider turning them into compost. Not only is composting a good way to improve your soil, but it is a way to keep the nutrients from your landscape onsite. It can even be used as temporary mulch in the vegetable garden. A guide to composing is available in ISU Extension publication PM 683, "Composting Yard Waste." Directions on how to construct a three bin composting unit are included at the end of the document.

Fresh green cuttings added to compost pile cleverly placed beneath the potting bench.

Fresh green cuttings added to a compost pile cleverly incorporated beneath the potting bench.

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