Gardening: Tips for planting, weeding and edging your garden
Are you still planting your vegetables? Here are a few tips. If your broccoli seedlings are a bit tall and floppy at planting time, you can bury part of the stem so they don't flop over. I pinch of a lower leaf or two, and then plant the root ball 3 inches or so below the soil surface. Same for Brussels sprouts. Tall tomatoes I often plant sideways after I remove 2 or more of the lower branches. The buried portion will send out roots, which is helpful to the plant later on.
Most gardeners who start seedlings indoors plant 2 or more seeds in each cell, thinking that at least one will germinate. But what to do if they both did? I advise snipping off one of the two early on. But I had a six-pack of kale seedlings with 2 nice plants per cell that had somehow escaped my scissors. For some I snipped off one seedling at planting time, thus avoiding any disruption of the roots.
For others, particularly if the seedlings were growing in opposite corners of the growing cell, I separated them and planted both. To do this I hold the rootball in two hands, thumbs on the soil surface and nearly touching. Then I push my thumbs down, and gently pull them away from each other – and tearing the rootball in half. Sometimes the roots are so entwined that the break, other times they just pull away. Either is fine. Roots recover easily.
But what can you do if you have too many melons or an overabundance of okra? It's very hard to throw them in the compost pile. Call your friends and neighbors, ask if they need some more plants. If you still have too many plants, deliver them to the community garden nearest you. Most have websites and contact info. I found one that will drive to my door to pick up vegetable and flower starts.
The bottom line is this: you don't have to plant every seedling you grew or bought. You might have to buy a 6-pack of kale when you only want 2 or 3 plants. It's okay to put the others in the compost pile if you can't find a taker. That's better than cramming them all into a small space.
After a recent day of heavy rain I spent much time weeding. Right after a rain when the soil is soaked is a good time to do so. Deep-rooted plants like thistles or dandelions are easier to pull when the soil is moist – or even soggy. If it's soggy, of course, your feet can compact the soil, so stay on the lawn and work from the edges.
I have learned all the weeds that grow in my garden: some by Latin name, some by common name, a few I just call "Bob" or "Larry". No matter. What is important is to know their roots. Annual weeds like jewel weed pull easily, all the roots coming with a scratch of my CobraHead weeder and a tug from above.
Other weeds, like perennial dandelions and burdocks, have tap roots that can go down 6 to 12 inches. For those I use a shovel to loosen the earth. I push it into the soil 4 inches from the weed, pull back on the handle, and the soil – along with the roots – loosen. Then with a tug the whole system comes out. If you break off a tap root, the weed will grow back, so it's worthwhile taking the time to do it right.
Crabgrass, by the way, grows well in compacted soil – but lawn grass will not. That's why it grows where you walk the most. Avoid it, if it bugs you, by putting down pavers to walk on. And if you set your mower at 3 or 4 inches the good grass may shade out the crab grass that is trying to establish itself now, in the early summer.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) - also known as Creeping Charlie or Jenny - is a pest to many of us because it grows in lawns and flower beds and will even grow in pure mulch! But it pulls easily and smells vaguely minty. Its leaves have scalloped edges and the flowers are generally a purplish blue. It sends down roots easily as it creeps into flower beds. I follow the roots with the tip of my CobraHead weeder, and they come out easily.
Edging the border of a flower bed makes it look tidy and professionally maintained. Basically edging means cutting a sharp edge to the bed with a shovel or an edging tool. By removing some soil after you have cut the edge, you create a little "moat". Lawn grass sends roots exploring for new territory – but if it finds air, it stops growing. It can save a lot of time weeding out grasses later on.
If you have a straight flower bed, pull a string taught to establish the line you will edge. If you want to create curves, use your hose. Just lay it out in the lawn to establish the exact curves you want. I like to make flower beds bulge out into the lawn rather than follow straight lines. Just be sure that when you expand your beds and establish new boundaries, your lawnmower can follow the lines you establish.
I try not to get too compulsive with my weeding. I get to the weeds when I feel like it. I try to pull them before they flower and set seed, but – obviously – that doesn't always happen. That assures, however, there is always something to do in the garden.
Read Henry Homeyer's twice-a-week blog at https://dailyuv.com/henryhomeyer. You can sign up for an email alert every time he posts a new article.
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