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Time for more action and fewer words during the spring
It's that time of year when there is too much to do in a garden
and too little time. The number of questions coming in is
overwhelming, too. Here are some of the issues coming up most
frequently in my mail, with bare bones answers for busy
Rabbits were trouble last year and I see them out there
again already. How do I keep them from destroying my
Put up short fences to keep them away from individual plants or
whole beds. Or trap them, then relocate or destroy them. Repellents
don't work or don't work for long so don't waste your time and
Groundhogs are my nemesis. They climb over any barrier
and eat my plants, flower buds or vegetables. How do I keep them
Trap them, then relocate or destroy them.
Moles are ruining my lawn. How can I get rid of
Set harpoon type traps into the most-used tunnels. Remove dead
moles and reset the traps until you stop catching moles.
My lawn is a disaster with more weeds and bare spots
than grass. What can I do?
Join the crowd. For several years in a row our
weather has not supported good lawn growth. People who ignored
their lawns other than to mow them, have now lost them. Don't point
the finger at grubs or disease unless you heed the four digits
pointing back at you since neglect is the main problem.
Loosen the soil, rake out debris, then seed or sod the worst
areas. If shade has increased as trees have matured, look into
pruning the trees to let in light or replacing lawn in the shadiest
spots with shade tolerant groundcovers. Water more regularly from
now on. Let the grass grow taller, to three or four inches.
Fertilize at least once a year in late fall with an organic, slow
When can I plant my annual flowers and
Not yet, unless you're willing to replant or put up with flowers
and vegetables that are weaker and less productive all season. The
soil is still cool enough to cause roots of greenhouse-grown
bedding plants to rot and die, except in some south-sloping well
drained sites. Frost is still possible, too. You are safer to plant
during the last half of May. Even then the soil may be too cold for
immediate transfer from greenhouse to garden, so before you plant
gradually acclimate or "harden off" flowers or vegetables over
three or four days. Do that by exposing the still-potted plants for
increasingly longer periods to outdoor light, wind and
Can I protect my ash tree from emerald ash
If your ash tree has not yet been attacked, is growing
vigorously and you are willing to undertake preventive measures
every spring for the life of the tree, you can try. There are no
guarantees and it's already weeks late for optimal timing of
insecticides. Apply a systemic insecticide such as Bayer Grub
control with Merit, watering it in thoroughly, or hire a tree care
service to inject such a product into the root flares. Fertilize
the tree each year and keep it well watered and throughout the
What shrubs and trees can I plant that are easier to
take care of than those I have now?
Use a good reference book, take a class, enlist the aid of a
good garden center's design staff or hire a designer. Set specific
criteria to define "easy care" and stick to them or require your
designer to stick to them. My own definition of easy care is a
1) Thrives in the number of hours of sun per day, type of soil
and amount of water my site naturally provides.
2) Will not in my lifetime or expected tenure on the property
outgrow the space it is allotted so it will not need pruning.
3) Is not susceptible to many diseases or insect pests so I will
only have to learn to watch for a few warning signs at specific
times of the year.
4) Provides more than one season of interest, such as good form
and fall color as well as spring flower, so I will not tire of it
and want to replace it in a few years.
What can I plant that requires no care, looks good all
the time and quickly reaches the size I want it to
Silk flowers and sculpture.
What can I plant to quickly block out an undesirable
A privacy fence.
Green thumbs up
to those who try out advice they get here or anywhere and then
report back on how it worked. It takes time and may involve
disappointing the one who offered the help, but do it anyway.
Without feedback, we can't get ahead.
Green thumbs down
to replanting a space with the same plant that just died. Even
if there is no residual disease and no insect hangers-on, the
conditions that set the plant up to fail are probably still
operative. Make a change in site or plant type.
Originally published 5/8/04