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Volume 15, Issue 15 ~ April 12 - April 18, 2007


Sharpen Up

Tall perennials and grasses flourish with cutting

Your best defense against unruly ornamental grasses and tall perennials is a good pair of hedge clippers. This tool also comes in handy when it’s time to discard long bulky grass stalks; use it to cut stalks into manageable six-inch pieces.

Start cutting the stalks at the top near the seed head. You’ll have to cut each stem several times, but since the stems all stand upright, it’s a fast job, especially if you’re equipped with electric hedge shears. Scatter short pieces of stems uniformly over the ground. (You’ll soon see why.)

Ornamental grasses should be cut to within six to eight inches of the ground or where new green growth is visible. Cut tall-growing herbaceous perennials such as sedum, Echinacea and black-eyed Susan to the ground.

If clumps of ornamental grasses have become overgrown, divide them now. You’ll find dividing such grasses easiest with an ax or hatchet and hammer. First, dig the clump and place it on its side near the planting area. Place the blade of the ax or hatchet so as to cut the clump in half; then strike the head with the hammer until the clump is separated.

Cut each half into quarters and remove the older center portion before continuing to scale the clump down. Discard the divisions from the center of each clump. You’ll use only the divisions made from the outer edges, which have more active roots that recover faster. Divisions taken from the center of large clumps are weak from growing under crowded conditions and may decay quickly.

Avoid crowding ornamental grasses. For the best effect, space clumps at least five feet apart for vigorous growing species such as zebra grasses, and three feet apart for the less vigorous species.

After transplanting, spread the trimmed stems uniformly around each plant and mulch with compost. Those short pieces of stem are easily covered with compost, and you’ll get the added benefit of recycling in place.

Trench Carefully among

Tree Roots

Q I have a 300-foot-long driveway, lined with long-needle pine trees. I want to run an electric line to the front of the property. The trees stand 10 to 15 feet from the side of the driveway. They are large, and I do not know how old they are. My question: If I trench alongside the driveway, will I do any harm to the trees?

—Jim Walter, Denton

A Trench as close to the driveway as possible to minimize root damage. If you use a trench digger that makes a trench just wide enough for the wire, you will make clean cuts on the roots that will heal rapidly. If you trench by hand or use a wide trencher, you will cause greater injury that might result in severe tree damage.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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