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GardenSMART Q and A

GardenSMART Q & A

Edited by Therese Ciesinski 

Hello, love the show. I'm trying to grow some native wild flowers in my suburban garden. I've mixed them with perennials like day lily, Black-eyed Susan, alliums, etc. The problem is our local Code Enforcement. They don't see wildflowers in the yard - they call the daisy fleabane a weed and threaten to ticket us.

Can you please offer some advice on striking a balance between growing native plants, yet staying in the confines of local ordinances. I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!
Via email
Sterling Heights, MI

I’m a supporter of replacing high-maintenance, high-chemical-input lawns with native, pollinator, and wildlife gardens, but many municipalities haven’t read the memo about water-guzzling grass being ecologically unsustainable. Add the belief that native wildflowers are “just weeds” that serve no purpose, and it’s no surprise that covenants multiply while monarch butterflies vanish.

But growing native plants within local ordinances should be totally doable. It starts with having a preplanned design. What gets people in trouble with the “yard police” is an unkempt, meadow-in-a-can garden, where there are no defined areas, every plant is six feet tall, and you need a machete to get to the front door.

First, be sure your yard isn’t all flowers. Plant deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs – all natives, of course. This gives the yard visual structure and provides even more diversity for pollinators and wildlife. Don’t let haphazard become a style: create color-harmonious flower borders with tall plants in the back and lower ones in front. Stake and tie sprawling plants. Add elements such as paths, an arbor or trellis, a sitting area or small patio. And yes, keep some lawn. Just a little – it makes the remainder of the plantings look intentional, and gives the eye a place to rest.

And I’ll bet you can get away with filling your flowerbeds with wildflowers as long as you keep the beds mulched and edged, the grass cut, and sight lines between the house and the street clear.

How do you plant peach seeds? Do you have to dry them out first? Will they grow from a seed that comes from peaches that you eat?
Via email
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

While a peach tree from a nursery was likely created through grafting, it’s not difficult to grow one from the seed inside the large pit in that peach you enjoyed for dessert. However, the tree that grows might be different than your original fruit. Before you can plant the seed you must clean the pit and dry it. GardenSMART has the complete instructions here:

Let us know how it turns out. Good luck!

We are experiencing 100-degree weather and I am afraid to fertilize my lawn to kill the morning glory that has appeared in my lawn! Is there anything I can do that won't kill the grass.
Via email
West Jordan, Utah

Step away from the lawn. Don’t fertilize, use herbicide, or apply anything else to your lawn when temperatures are that high. Most turfgrass goes dormant when temps reach the 90’s, and anything you use can burn the roots and kill the grass.

According to a Utah State University Cooperative Extension turf grass website, what you call morning glory is more likely field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis L.), a scraggly but tenacious cousin of morning glory with white flowers that spreads both by rhizomes and seed. For now, keep the vine from spreading by going out in the early morning when it’s cooler and hand pulling as much as you can. Or cut the vine back to the ground with garden scissors or shears.

Healthy turf can resist bindweed, so once temperatures cool down, be sure to practice good lawn management. Don’t mow too low; keep the grass two and a half to three inches tall. And more water is not better. Overwatering can weaken the grass while making the bindweed grow even more vigorously.

I have a hardy hibiscus potted on my deck. Its blooms are fabulous!  Dinner plate size and thin as crepe paper. How do I keep it blooming throughout the summer? I am afraid to dead head the blooms for fear I am taking off new buds. Would appreciate some advice.
Trudy V.
Lexington, NC

Hardy hibiscus is the non-tropical species and, as the name suggests, is winter hardy enough to regrow and bloom even up to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4. Their spectacular flowers can be 8-12” across. Hardy hibiscus dies back in the winter, sending out new shoots in late spring, once soil temperatures reach 65 degrees. Keep your hibiscus well watered – don’t let it dry out – and fertilize once in spring, and once in late July with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.

The flowers bloom in clusters of large buds at the end of branches. Each bloom lasts a single day. Spent flowers should fall off; if they don’t, each one can be snipped right at the end of the tiny stem where it meets the other buds. After a cluster of buds has finished blooming, snip the cluster stem back to where it joins the branch. In warmer climates like yours, the plant will soon send out more buds.

Therese Ciesinski is the In The Dirt Newsletter editor.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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