GARDENING BY RONELLA: Passing on a few gardening tricks
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
May 29, 2013 | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every gardener knows all kinds of little tricks that have been learned over the years and this old gardener is no exception. Sometimes I take for granted that everyone knows what I have learned by trial and error. I would share a few little bits of information.

This past week, I have been asked more than once about starting a snowball, the old favorite that is in bloom now. It is very simple and is easy to do. Pull a small stem from the main stem, pulling downwards so you wind up with a “heel”. You need to choose a stem no larger than a pencil and cut it at the top to about 18 inches or so. Put the heel end in a glass of water for a week or more. With a shovel, make a depression in the soil of a mostly shady area and stick the heeled end down at least 6 or 8 inches and then close the hole with a firm pat. Keep the area damp the rest of the summer. I would suggest that you use a spot near your water source so you don’t forget and let it dry out. Because not every stem will grow roots, I suggest that you put several in the ground. Also, remove the flowers and most of the leaves before putting the stem in the ground.

You can use this method to start many of the spring flowering shrubs, including spirea, forsythia, fire thorn, bridal wreath and many others. I also would suggest that you buy a bottle of Rootone if you are starting several. It is relatively inexpensive and lasts for years.

Another little trick concerns a little patch of grass or weeds near a perennial or shrub. Sometimes it’s more work to pull the little ones than you want to do. When you have a weed and grass killer mixed up in a sprayer with a nozzle, place the nozzle into the little cardboard roller that comes inside toilet paper roll and you can direct the spray straight to the weed without touching the perennial or shrub. I also have put a piece of cardboard between the spray and the plant.

Another idea for you to consider using sometime concerns the area around trees or shrubs that has mulch but you want a wider area of mulch. Rather than trying to dig out the grass or kill it, place several layers of newspaper in the shape you want the circle to be, wet it down and put mulch on top of it. The newspaper will kill the grass in a few months and you are saving the time and effort of getting rid of the grass the hard way.

If you have a big leaf hydrangea, it should be in bloom shortly. First, don’t cut out any dead looking stems until the stems are all leafed out. Then you can tell which stems are dead and need to be cut out. These are easy perennial shrubs to grow but they do like partial shade and rich moist soil so remember to water them often in summer. If you are given one as a gift, by all means, get it in the ground. Remember that the color depends on the soil. If you want pink, add lime to the soil. If you prefer blue, then the soil must have acid fertilizer. I have even had some that couldn’t make up their minds and were half and half. So, in that case, you get to decide. Hydrangeas often are subject to powdery mildew. In case yours have mildew, pick off the infected leaves and spray with a fungicide that lists powdery mildew on the container. The lovely hydrangeas make such pretty dried flowers for a winter bouquet. Put several of the stems together, tie with a string and hang anywhere in the house to dry.

I notice that the slugs are beginning to come out of hiding and if there is any thing more repulsive than a slug, I haven’t seen it. It is time to get out the “slug bait”. Most garden centers carry a pellet product that you put under the hosta leaves, under steps or in any dark, damp area. A good way to attract slugs to the bait is to lay a plank down on a wet spot of soil, put a piece of large gravel under one end to raise the plank enough to let the slugs get under, place the slug bait pellets under the board and the slugs will find it.

As all good gardeners know, you fight a battle all summer. It is insects, slugs, dry or wet soil, black spot or some other disease and it is never ending problems. Sometimes you will find some particular plant just is not worth the trouble. Some plants are so susceptible to disease that it is easier just to pull them up and pitch them. I have done that more than once. I am reminded of a pretty little rose, a miniature, and for two or more years, I had one problem after the other with it until I finally pulled it up and burned it. Yes, I did feel better.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.
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