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Lawn & Garden

Ask Dayle

5/9/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

Q: Please will you repeat the technique you use with newspaper to kill grass and build a flower bed?

A: Measure off the size of the garden bed you have planned, then dig around the perimeter of the space at about the depth of your spade to clearly define the edge of the bed. Toss the turf and soil that came from the perimeter into the middle of the still grassy bed. Chop up any large clumps of the grass and soil and spread them around so that the surface of the bed is relatively even.

Now cover the entire grassy area inside the perimeter with at least four sheet layers of black and white newsprint (do not use the glossy color ads). Overlap the edges of the newspaper very well so that there is no peek-through of the grass. Spray the newspaper lightly with water to keep it in place. Do not walk on the newspaper.

Next gently spread a 4-inch thickness of shredded hardwood mulch over all of the newspaper. Do not walk on the mulch bed because this will cause the newspaper underneath to tear, thereby creating a pathway for grass blades to grow through. (The perimeter you originally dug will keep all the mulch in place.)

Allow the bed to settle for at least a month, at which point all the grass will be smothered and well on its way to decomposing and returning nutrients to the soil. To plant, just rake back the mulch a bit, dig your hole and place the plant. Restore mulch around the plant, but do not touch the crown with it. Don’t worry if there is still a bit of newspaper there. Dig right through it. It will decompose over time. I have used this method for more than 20 years. It works.

 

Rabbits can be a nuisance with backyard fruit and vegetable gardens. Fencing a garden is the best way to deter them from nibbling on the fruits of your labor.
Photo courtesy of PDPhoto.org
Q: Last year a bunny ate all the not yet ripe strawberries off my vines. Is there anything I can do to prevent that from happening again this year? Is there an organic spray that will deter them?

A: There are organic sprays and homemade recipes that use bitter tasting or spicy-hot ingredients to deter rabbits from grazing on the garden. These sprays are not useful for strawberries because the fruit will taste just like the spray. Also, the spray must be regularly reapplied and also if it rains.

Folks have suggested everything from trapping to sprinkling dried blood meal to scattering human or dog hair to spreading thorny rose cane cuttings that hurt the bunny’s feet. 

But the best method to keep rabbits out of the strawberry patch is to fence the area. Use a 4-foot-high, chicken-wire fence with 1-inch mesh. Bury the bottom 6 inches of the fence under the soil to prevent burrowing, and bend the top 6 inches of the fence at an angle facing outward. Make sure the mesh is no larger than 1 inch; otherwise baby bunnies can squeeze through.

 

Q: How do I move a perennial that I originally planted a few years ago but now grows too tall and blocks out other plants?

A: Transplant established perennials in early spring, just after growth starts, or in late summer. First choose the new site for the plant and dig the hole, loosen the soil at the base of the hole and incorporate a bit of compost into the soil. Also mix a bit of compost into the soil removed from the hole. Now dig around the plant, preserving as much of the rootball as possible. Lift the plant and plant it at the new location at the same depth it originally grew. Backfill around the rootball using the amended soil, being careful to eliminate any air pockets. Use any leftover soil to fill in the hole where the plant was lifted. Keep the plant watered to help it get established in its new home.

 

Q: I have a plant that comes back every year and grows very tall. It sends underground shoots everywhere and new plants sprout from those roots. It blooms the entire summer with clusters of tiny orchid-like flowers. How do I get rid of it?

A: You may want to try the newspaper/mulch method mentioned above, but first cut all growth completely to the ground. I’d be interested to see a photo of this plant. I am not familiar with the description. It is apparently quite invasive.

For more horticultural information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Fact Sheet HYG-1236-98, “General Maintenance of Herbaceous Ornamentals.”

Please note fact sheets are sent out free; there is a fee for bulletins. Many bulletins are available online at ohioline.osu.edu and can be printed from home or accessed at the public library.

 

Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition, as well as about the OSU Master Gardener program. Questions can be emailed to kcollins@akron.com, faxed to 330-665-9590 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material. Inquiries about area garden clubs or groups should be sent directly to the particular organization in question.

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