Summer watering, mole control, weed control and hydrangea
By Larry Sombke
Question: What is the best way to water my garden and use the least amount of water?
Answer: There is a lot more to watering your garden than just spraying water on your plants. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this summer task.
Too many people take a top down approach to watering their garden. Standing over your garden with a hose in your hands is probably the worst thing you can do. Any overhead watering promotes shallow rooted plants that are addicted to frequent watering. Overhead watering can also lose 50 percent of its moisture to evaporation and wind drift. All you are doing is wasting water and ruining your garden. Here’s how, to do it the right way:
Water the soil not the plant. Your plants absorb water through their underground root system. You need to build the kind of soil that will retain water like a reservoir so that your plants can call on that moisture during dry periods.
Whenever you plant, dig in an inch or two of compost or other organic matter. Compost helps break up hard clay soil and tighten up loose sandy soil. Your crumbly organic soil will hold more water than any other kind and it will give the plants’ root system the room to stretch out and dig in.
When you water, you want to deliver the moisture slowly and as close to the root zone as possible to eliminate evaporation and to allow the soil to soak up as much water as possible. The best way to accomplish these twin objectives is by laying a soaker hose in the garden and leaving it there. You can even bury this hose under two to four inches of soil. If you don’t want to bury it, you can cover it up with a layer of shredded organic mulch.
Soaker hoses ooze water out through their pores along their entire length. They will soak an area up to 18 inches on either side of the hose. If you have a mixed perennial border you should loop the hose through the garden in an S pattern. Whenever you water, you just hook up a regular hose to the soaker hose and turn it on. They use up to 70 percent less water than other types of watering systems.
Drip irrigation is a close second to soaker hoses. These are specially designed hoses that have tiny holes punched in them by the manufacturer which slowly drip water out to the garden. Some drip systems have little sprinklers built into them that gently spray water out to irrigate the garden.
Question: How can I control moles and deer using organic methods?
Answer: MoleMax is an effective organic product that I have used to control moles and chipmunks in my garden. It is an easy-to-apply granular product that is derived from castor bean oil. Castor bean oil has long been cited as a deterrent to moles, but this is the first time I have seen an easy-to-use product in my local lawn and garden center. The package says it is effective against moles, gophers, voles, armadillos, skunks, rabbits, ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. For more information visit www.bonideproducts.com/products/molemax.htm..
Deer Stopper is an organic product that I am using to deter deer. It is derived from putrescent whole egg solids mixed with rosemary and mint oil to improve the fragrance. So far it is working for me. For more information visit www.messinawildlife.com.
Question: What is the best way to kill weeds growing in my sidewalk?
Answer: White vinegar straight from the bottle is an effective way to kill weeds. Simply fill a spray bottle with white vinegar right off the supermarket shelf and spray it on the offending weed. Be sure not to spray plants you want to live because vinegar will kill them, too. This is particularly effective with weeds growing in your brick sidewalk. Most of the prepared organic weed killers have white vinegar in them mixed with a citrus scent. All are effective.
To kill poison ivy, mix a gallon of white vinegar with a pound of table salt and three tablespoons of liquid dish soap. Spray that on the poison ivy. You may have to spray more than once because poison ivy is tough stuff.
Question: My Endless Summer hydrangea is not blooming. What can I do?
Answer: Many gardeners are complaining that their Endless Summer hydrangea shrubs are not blooming. These are the shrubs that bloom more reliably in the north. I emailed Peggy Anne Montgomery, horticulturist for Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, the company that introduced Endless Summer. Here are some of her tips:
• Keep the shrubs watered for the first couple years while they get established.
• Do not add any fertilizer to the new shrubs. Fertilizer will promote leaf formation at the expense of blooms.
• Dump a bushel basket of leaves over the shrubs in October for winter protection for the first couple years.
• Be patient, hydrangea take a couple years to get established.
Also, people want to know if they can change the color of the bloom from blue to pink by adding chemicals. Peggy’s advice is: don’t fight with Mother Nature. It doesn‘t work. But, if you really must, be sure to read the instructions on the packaging carefully. Best advice though is to leave the shrub alone!
For more on these wonderful shrubs check out www.endlesssummerblooms.com/en/home.
Larry Sombke is a guest on WAMC and the editor/host of his blog website www.beautifuleasygardens.blogspot.com. He is a landscape consultant and the author of “Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens.” Send your garden questions to him at email@example.com.