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My garden was a total disaster this year. It’s true I didn’t have as much time to devote to it as I have in the past, but the weather, a catastrophic tree trimming and an invasive groundcover were mostly to blame.
I hired a tree trimming company early in the season to scale back a row of giant Leyland cypresses in my backyard. I have enough experience to expect and accept minor damage when work like gutter cleaning or tree pruning is done alongside my plants, but I was not prepared for the obliteration of an entire bed.
Branches were dropped, trampling was done — and then a clean-up and raking left bare dirt behind as if the mature Joe Pye weed, coneflowers, clematis and black-eyed Susans never existed. I was stunned to discover the workers departed without a word.
Thanks to some before-and-after photographic evidence, I was reimbursed for the cost of replacement plants, but the victims were quite large, and it’ll take years to get the bed back to where it was. Sigh.
I made the mistake this year of feeding birds within spitting distance of my vegetable garden, which pretty much rolled out a red carpet for the squirrels. They destroyed my zucchini plants early in the season, then switched gears and embarked on a Bonnie and Clyde mission to swipe every last one of my green tomatoes.
I successfully foiled their future attempts with homemade hot pepper spray and dog hair mulch, but it took until September to get more fruit on the plants.
Now, after a cropless summer, I have 40 green tomatoes ripening in a box with a couple of bananas.
Oh, and the Liriope groundcover I planted a decade ago has seen fit to take over my entire front border and one section of a bed in the back. It’s coming out next week.
So next year will be a year of new beginnings, and I’m focusing on the silver lining of a clean slate.
Send me a note with your hits and misses of the season, and I’ll publish a selection in a future issue. Be sure to include your full name and hometown.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: I hope you can advise me on what to do for my ponytail palm. A new shoot has grown, and the fronds on the plant have developed brown tips.
Now the plant looks strange, and we are wondering if we should try to remove the smaller part and try to root it. What is your suggestion? — Kathy Schiavone
DEAR KATHY: Push the soil away from the baby, which looks like it’s large enough to have rooted by now, and cut it off at the junction with a clean, sharp knife. Then plant it in a pot with drainage holes in its bottom.
Use a succulent/cactus potting mix because ordinary potting mix would be too rich for this type of plant.
Water it well, then cover it with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect but leave the bag open at the bottom to allow air to flow through.
Remove the bag every couple of days and spritz the soil with water to keep it lightly moist.
Concerning the browning tips, I suspect that was caused by improper watering, although heat could have played a role since I see the plant is outdoors.
Ponytail palms only need to be watered about once every two weeks.
You can trim off the brown tips or remove the affected leaves entirely. But don’t cut off more than 20 percent of the foliage at once, or the plant may decline. If you go that route, give the plant time to recover between prunings.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Start paperwhite bulbs indoors now for blooms around the holidays. Place them pointy-end up in a shallow bowl half-filled with gravel, then add water to reach the bulb bottoms. Replenish the water as needed and replace it altogether at least once a week to keep bacteria from growing.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Robyn Cartagine and her husband, Tony, have grown a giant fig tree in their Glenwood Landing, NY, backyard.
Initially disappointed with slow growth and fruitless summers, the couple had a bountiful harvest this year from the tree, which is now more than 10 feet tall.
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next!
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
This week’s column was about growing food indoors from kitchen scraps — a fun project that can yield a side dish right on your countertop.
Before that, I wrote about how to care for houseplants in fall, including tips for acclimating vacationing plants back indoors, end-of-season gardening tips and how to collect and save vegetable seeds.
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
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📧 How’m I doing?
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.
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YOU PROBABLY PLANTED LILY TURF, IT IS A SPREADING LORIOPE, GO FOR THE CLUMPING VARIETIES, CLASSIC GROUNDCOVERS IS A GOOD PLACE TO START