Garden Questions of the Week
“Is there anything we can apply to our perennial beds that will kill grass and weeds without harming the good plants?” -Yes! Don’t forget the pre emergent herbicides to help stop the seeds from growing. Preen and Organic Preen (Corn Gluten Meal) work nicely (read the labels for any restrictions). For those grasses and weeds that are growing, spot treat with Roundup, Kleenup or Espoma’s 4n1 Weed killer (all natural) without spraying the desirable plant’s foliage. And for the weedy grasses only, try Fertilome’s ‘Over the Top’ or Bonide’s ‘Grass Beater’ which can be sprayed over the top of many desirable plants without harming them (again read the label before using).
“St. Patty’s day is this week. Isn’t that a signal for planting potatoes?” Can be! The timing is usually right around St. Patty’s Day – the soil needs to be around 45 degrees or higher and not soggy wet. If that’s what we have by then, go for it. If not, wait until the conditions are right. By the way, there are other ways to grow potatoes besides in the ground – on top of the ground mounded in straw and compost, in chicken wire cages, stacked tires, raised beds, large pots, laundry baskets (drain holes in bottom), and even the Potato Bags that have Velcro pockets on the sides so you can reach inside, grab a ‘tater’ and close it back up! St. Patty’s day usually signals time for planting peas, onions, and other cold crops (weather / soil condition pending).
“When can I mow my grass for the first time?” -I say as soon as the weather is in the 50’s and you can walk on the lawn without leaving any tracks! It’s amazing what the first mowing will do to help the lawn get off to a good start – cleans off the dead blades, picks up debris laying on the soil surface, and pulls the grass blades ‘up’. All this makes the lawn look better, and opens up the soil for quicker warming and quicker green-up. Just amazes me how lawns respond to the first season mowing!
“Just in case, how would I know the difference between a termite and an ant?” -Good question! Termites have straight antennae, two pairs of wings about the same size and shape, broad waist (like mine is!), and short legs. Ants have elbowed antennae, two pairs of wings with the rear wings smaller than the front wings, a narrow waist (not at all like mine!), and longer legs. If you discover termites, don’t try to control them yourself, call in the professionals.
“Every year my Columbine get leaf miners. What can I do to get rid of it?” -This is a very common problem with Columbine and really is more aesthetic than a problem to the plant. You can try a systemic like Bonide’s or Bayer’s Tree and Shrub Insect Control (apply early spring), but many folks will simply cut off the infested foliage after the plants are finished flowering, and let them re-grow the rest of the season.
“When should I prune back my roses?” -Although I see many gardeners out already cutting back roses, my experiences along with the advice from the rose doctor himself, Dr. Pottschmidt, have been to wait until late March to early to mid April. Sure they may have already started to leaf out, but just wait. Pruning encourages new growth, and pruning a bit later, gets you closer to warmer weather and less chance of freeze damages to that new foliage.
“Some of my over-wintering container plants in the garage are starting to bud. What should I do?” -Move them outside at this stage to let them come back to life just as the ones outside are doing. Garages will be getting too warm as we go along for plants to stay dormant and will pop out early. If the weather makes a sudden change to really cold, you may have to move them back in overnight or as needed. But get them outside to come along as the weather dictates.