Mid-Atlantic

May, 2011
Regional Report

Remove Weeds Before Mulching

No shortcuts allowed here! No brainer, you say? Though you may weed rigorously before applying mulch, not so with everyone. I'm seeing people piling mulch on top of weeds, perhaps in exasperation. Pull out, hoe out weeds, flame weed. Remove large weeds from the garden bed. If you've hoed and uprooted an area of young, one-inch seedling weeds, it's okay to leave them to fry in the sun till you get the mulch down.

Train the Hired Help

You've hired someone to mulch. Maybe someone else to cut grass. Taking the time now to tell and show them particulars about your standards and expectations could save you a summer of aggravation. Mulch about 3 inches thick will suppress weeds. Less is a waste of time and money. No mulch touching plants, trees, shrubs. Three inches away, please. Grass is best cut when 2 to 3 inches high for healthy root growth and when no more than a third of the height of the grass is removed at each cutting. That may mean mowing every 2 or 3 weeks, not weekly as the contractor likes. Shorter grass means shallow, weaker roots that will dry out in summer heat. If the hired help grumbles, remind them you're paying them for service.

Create Beds for Miscellaneous Plants

A rose bush here. A hydrangea there. A lone clump of peonies. A wave of daylilies. Transform a hodgepodge into one garden bed. A sweeping plant community is easier to maintain and more attractive to the eye than some shrubs here, some perennials there. Arrange garden hoses to surround the whole area to include all plants. Adjust the hose into a pleasing shape - oval, half-moon, kidney. Clip grass really short or remove it entirely. Cover the area with a thick layer of composting leaves to suppress weeds and feed the soil. Top with decorative mulch if desired. Feel free to add perennials and shrubs at your leisure through the growing season.

Check Last Year's Mulch Before Buying More

Don't assume your gardens need more mulch this season if you mulched last year. Dig around. Break the crust. Measure. Do 2 to 3 inches or more of shredded bark, wood chips, root mulch remain? That's enough to inhibit weeds, retain moisture and buffer plant roots from summer heat. Loosen the mulch crust so it's fluffy. That allows water to flow through into the soil and reach roots. Rain water flows off a hard-crusted mulch.

Deadhead Pansies

Pansies are cool-season annuals. They will continue flowering into June if deadheaded regularly. That is, we pinch off the dead flowers and their stems. Pansies are edible so surprise family and friends. Toss cheery-faced pansies on salads. Place one next to scrambled eggs on the breakfast plate. Dress up a serving of green beans, carrots, or cauliflower with fresh pansy on top.

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