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Gardening

Now’s the time to get to work, says the Bay Gardener

Feeling less than pride and joy in your lawn?     September is a great month for establishing and repairing lawns. Here’s how to get started now on growing rich, green, weed-free grass in 2014. 1. Test Your Soil     How’s your lawn doing?     There’s no way to know without soil testing. Fertilize without testing, and you’re not only throwing your money away but also polluting the Bay.

Bulbs planted deep now will give you a big show come spring

Recommendations for planting bulbs using bulb augers or planters bother me. Most instructions advise planting large bulbs six inches deep and small bulbs and corms three inches deep.     If you want your bulbs, especially tulip bulbs, to flourish year after year, ignore those recommendations and take the shovel to the garden — as well as a bag or two of compost and some agricultural-grade limestone.

Procrastination will lead to failure

Garden centers are showing bulbs of tulips, narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and leucojum, as well as corms of crocuses. Home mailboxes have been filled with the fall catalogs of bulb companies.     You may not be in the mood for planting bulbs, but now is the time. The earlier you plant in the fall, the bigger the flowers will be come spring. This is especially true for tulips. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. What’s more, tulips planted in early fall in well-prepared soil will flower for several years.

Plus you can share your hostas and lilies with friends

Late summer and early fall is a great time to divide and share your hosta and day lily plants with friends and neighbors while reducing over-crowding in the garden.     One of the big advantages of growing hosta and day lilies is that once they are established, they require little attention. Hostas perform at their best in light shade, but they will tolerate full sun, resulting in more flowers, while day lilies are at their best in full sun.

Act now or they’ll devour your narrow-leafed evergreens

Keep your eyes open and you’ll notice large sections of brown foliage in arborvitae, junipers, Leland cypress and pines. Look closely and you’ll see thousands of bagworms dangling from the branches.

They’re building strength for a fall assault

Bay Weekly readers are asking me where the stinkbugs are.     Stinkbugs may not have plagued you this summer, but I can assure you that they are building their population.     After my fall, I have not been able to spray my few remaining peach trees or my vegetable garden. Surveying the peach trees, I could not find one peach that had not been infested with stinkbug stings. Every remaining peach was cat-faced from stings, with several stinkbugs actively feeding on them.

Acid-loving plants need iron but rusting metal won’t help

A Bay Weekly reader told me he throws a handful of nails in the bottom of each planting hole whenever he plants trees or shrubs. The tradition has been handed down from grandpa to grandson. The purpose, he says, is “to provide an adequate supply of iron to the roots, of course.”     He could not tell me if nail size, such as ten-penny, finish nails or shoe tacks, made any difference. He had no preference for rusty nails or new nails.

How to grow a garden to suit many tastes

Quite a few plants love acid soils. Andromeda, azaleas, blueberries, leucothoe, mountain laurel and rhododendrons, bald and pond cypress, deciduous hollies, false heather, heather, Japanese hollies, mountain silverbell, oaks, partridge berry and sour gum love acid soils.     Such plants demand soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5.

Time to transplant azaleas and other acid-loving plants

Mid-August to early October is the time to transplant azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, andromeda, leucothoe and blueberries.     What do blueberries have to do with azaleas and these other landscaping plants?     By Aug­ust, all have stopped producing top growth and are now making root growth. Transplanting them at this time of year enables the plants to become well established before the ground freezes.

Garden in the evening cool

Gardening in the heat of the day is unhealthy. It’s one of those stresses those of us with gray or white hair in particular are told repeatedly to avoid during these hot muggy days when orange alert air pollution levels are anticipated.     But did you know that gardening in the heat of the day also promotes the germination of weed seeds and the growth of weeds?