Cautionary tales from the front lines

Beware promises of “fast-growing” plants.

Hello, friends!

A few weeks ago, I came clean and confessed my biggest gardening mistakes, then asked for yours.

As promised, I’ve compiled your contributions into a cautionary tale meant to safeguard the rest of us from horticultural havoc. Take heed!

DIANA CORRAO, HUNTINGTON STATION, NY

I decided to plant camouflage plant in the small garden next to my front door.  At the time. the garden was divided into sections using railroad ties.  The camouflage plant didn’t get the message to stay in its own section and soon sent runners out not only to the other sections, but I also found it in  the area by the street (courtesy of a bird?)  

I pulled it all up, or so I thought. Whenever I found an unwanted visitor, I thought it would be a good idea to plant it on the left side of the driveway where my property borders the street.  This was about a decade ago.  It has now taken over and is encroaching on what I want growing there.  

Not learning my lesson to thoroughly read the plant tag, I repeated the mistake with Siskiyou pink snowdrops, which I didn’t realize sent out underground runners.  

I now have four of the camouflage plant next to my door.  My latest attempt to get rid of them is to soak a paper towel in a vinegar-salt-dishwashing liquid solution, wrap it around the offending plant and put a plastic bag over it with a rubber band to tie it off.

JEANNE TERRY, BELLEROSE, NY

I also planted morning glories, 25 years ago, and I'm still weeding them out. But my biggest mistake, which I make every single year, is to think that I can maintain more plantings than I have time or energy for. Also, I tend to fall in love with plants that need full sun but my garden, at best, is part shade. I'm trying to get better and the suggestions you gave me are a big help.

KARI R., CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA

After moving to a new home with some established garden beds, I have spent years focusing on removing bishop's weed (Aegopodium) considering it the bane of my existence. 

Unfortunately, I not only completely ignored the impending doom of the accompanying lily-of-the-valley (Convolaria) and chameleon plant (Houttuynia), but I actually encouraged that pretty pink, white and green plant to fill in where I took out the bishop's weed.  Then it pretty much exploded, and I found out what it was. 

This morning, DH and I finally finished ripping out, digging up and major cardboard- and paper-covering the entire garden bed to hopefully destroy those horrible thugs. 

While I didn't plant them myself, I could and should have gotten it under control before it spread so far. I expect it to be a few years before the 10-foot by 20-foot area can be planted again.

JENNIFER SIEGEL

Thank you so much for sharing your pain about morning glories. Same here! I even made sure the packet said they were annuals. Five years later, and I’m still ripping them out weekly. 🤨

BILL LANE, FLORAL PARK, NY

I replaced my standard window boxes with the self-watering type. I use the fill tube instead of adding water directly to the soil.

Why didn’t I think of that, Bill? As soon as I read your email, I ordered two such boxes for my fence. Thanks!

👉👉If you’re enjoying this newsletter, why not share it with a gardening friend? 

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💡 If you do one thing this week…

Fertilize tomatoes, peppers and eggplants as soon as their fruit sets.

📬 Ask Jessica

DEAR JESSICA: Our orange daylilies are starting to bloom and will soon have many beautiful flowers. We hope to catch them in full bloom before the deer decimate them overnight. What can be done to at least delay the deer from eating them--without having to resort to a bow & arrow? —Michael R., Cold Spring, NY

DEAR MICHAEL: The best and truly only fail-safe way to protecting plants from deer is fencing. But barring such a barrier, there are some repellants that work well (however, I recommend them with the caveat that a very hungry deer will eat any plant, even resorting to those that, either naturally or because they’re coated in repellents, smell and/or taste bad.)

The Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, based in Rochester, NY, recommends the following:

Repels-All (putrescent whole egg solids, clove oil, and garlic oil)

Deters by touch, taste, and smell. Protects plants and property for up to 2 months per application.

Deer-Off Repellent Spray (putrescent whole egg solids, capsaicin, and garlic)

Combines odor and taste deterrents and is registered for use on flowers, grass, bulbs, ornamental shrubs, edible crops, plants, seedlings and trees. The spray and should be applied to all leaves, stems and branches at the beginning of each season.

Hinder® (ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids)

Odor-based and one of the few repellents registered for use on edible crops. Hinder can be applied directly to home gardens, ornamentals, annual and perennial flowers, and fruit trees until one week before harvest. Effectiveness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

Miller’s Hot Sauce® Animal Repellent (capsaicin) This taste-based repellent is registered for use on ornamentals, fruit and nut trees, bushes, vines and hay bales stored in the field. Apply it with a backpack or trigger sprayer to all susceptible plant parts. Do not apply to fruit-bearing plants after fruit set. Vegetable crops also can be protected if sprayed prior to the development of edible parts. Weatherability can be improved by adding an antitranspirant.”

If you don’t find success with any of these products, instead of shooting Bambi, might I suggest replacing your daylilies with these plants that deer find unpalatable?

👏 Sunday shoutout

“It looks like it’s going to be a very good year for tomatoes,” says Matthew Barcia of West Hempstead, NY, who has been growing tomatoes for 45 years.

He’s growing beefsteak and cherry tomatoes in containers, makes his own “Eiffel Tower” plant trellises to support them and says he expects his beefsteaks to weigh “at least a pound or two” each.

“When the ripening begins, I plan on having a tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella party,” he said, adding, “I will definitely serve Italian wine.”

What a fun idea — enjoy, Matthew!

📧 Send me your feedback!

I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.

Until next week, stay safe. Be well. And always keep your mind in the dirt. —Jessica


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