Gardening Daily Tips 105

Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)

Plant type: Shrub

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4b to 9a

Height: 72″ to 120″

Spread: 72″ to 120″

Exposure: partial shade partial sun to full sun

Bloom Color: Green, Yellow

Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring

Leaf Color: Green

Growth Rate: slow

Moisture: moist to wet

Soil Condition: Acidic, Alkaline, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained

Form: Oval, Rounded

Landscape Uses:

Border, Pest tolerant, Massing, Woodland garden

Special Features:

Attracts birds, North American native, Fragrant foliage, Wetlands plant, Attracts butterflies, Attractive flowers or blooms

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Q&A: Controlling moles

Question: How do I rid the yard of moles without poisoning my organic garden not to mention the environment? All the neighbors use toxic pest control so the moles come here instead.

Answer: Moles and gophers can be exasperating when they take up residence in a yard. The critters tunnel through the soil feeding on grubs, worms and beetles. Sometimes they chew through plant roots and bulbs, causing damage to the plants. The best way to control these pests is by trapping. Invest in one or two scissors-type traps and set them in the active runs. The best approach is to use a stiff metal probe (like a straightened wire coathanger) to find the main runs. Start at a mound of soil and explore the ground with the probe, finding the longest tunnel. You’ll be able to tell by whether or not the probe penetrates into the soil easily. Short tunnels are used infrequently, so your best chance of trapping will be by placing a trap in a frequently used main run. Once you’ve found a likely tunnel, set the trap and cover it with a section of turf or a board to exclude daylight. Keep setting the trap until you stop catching moles and gophers. It may take an entire season, but persistence pays off and eventually you\’ll reduce the population of the creatures. Healthy soil naturally has a large population of insects. As long as the insects inhabit the soil, moles and gophers will be attracted. Wish there were an easier way to eliminate moles and gophers from the landscape

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Q&A: Leggy Mums

Question: My mums always do fine after transplanting but I can never get them to look as pretty and bushy as when I bought them. How do they get them to bloom like a bouquet?

Answer: Chrysanthemums should be pinched or sheared back about twice a month until the beginning or middle of July. This should keep the plants dense and bushy as well as compact. At that point, stop pruning and allow the flower buds to develop.

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Q&A: Growing Carrots

Question: My carrots grew well, but they are not particularly sweet and are thickly covered with root “hairs.” What is causing this? Do you have any pointers for growing carrots?

Answer: Carrots need a stone-free, deeply worked soil that drains well. During early stages of growth, the carrot’s taproot must meet no resistance in the soil. If a root meets a rock or hard clay, it will branch or simply stop growing. Carrots produce best in a raised bed. Till the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches, adding plenty of compost but no manure unless it is well rotted. Excess nitrogen causes branching and hairy, fiberous roots. Potassium promotes solid, sweet carrots. Carrots are cool-weather vegetables, so start sowing about two weeks before the last expected frost in your area. Make successive plantings every three weeks until July. Furrows should be about 3/4 inch deep and 4 inches apart. One planting method is to place a half-inch layer of sifted peat moss in the bottom of each furrow, sow the seeds sparingly on top, then cover with about a quarter inch of peat moss. To help germination, cover the beds with burlap bags kept soaking wet until the carrots sprout. Remove the bags and water the beds daily until the seedlings are well established. Mulch with clean straw. The first few weeks after sowing determine the size of your crop. Carrots can’t tolerate a deep planting in a dry bed, so the trick is to offer them a shallow sowing with even moisture. The seedlings grow slowly and can’t compete with weeds. Hand weeding is recommended until the carrots are 2 inches tall. Thin the carrots to 3 inches apart then mulch with chopped leaves, pine needles, and compost to keep the weeds at bay. Mulching also helps the soil retain moisture and prevents “green shoulder,” which is caused by exposing the crowns of the carrots to the sun, making the roots bitter. Most carrots can be harvested in less than three months. The largest carrots will have the darkest, greenest tops, but don’t leave the roots in the ground too long or they will be tough. Most are at their prime when about an inch in diameter at the crown. When harvesting, drench the bed with water first, making the carrots easier to pull. When you find a carrot large enough, grasp the greens at the crown and tug gently with a twisting motion. If the greens snap off, carefully lift the roots with a spading fork. Use damaged roots right away and store unblemished ones.

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Tip: Training Vines

When I’m working on training a vine to a frame, I store several extra twist ties for the project by attaching them to the supporting frame. Then, as the plant grows and needs more help following the form, I have the ties where I need them. What could be more convenient?

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Tip: Use Fresh Soil in Containers

Replace soil in outdoor planters with fresh potting mix or a combination of potting mix and compost. Put the old soil in the garden or compost pile.

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