To do this week
* Resist the temptation for “revenge sprays” on weeds in lawns. That term, coined by Dr. Kevin Frank, crop specialist at Michigan State University, refers to the dumping of excessive amounts of weed killer on lawns heavily infected with weeds. More is not better when it comes to using herbicides. In any case, herbicide application should be the last alternative for weed control. If weeds have not completely taken over the lawn, they may be crowded out simply by raising the mowing height to 3 inches or higher.
* Apply mulch around most vegetable crops. Generally, I don’t put mulch around crops that are prime targets of slugs. Slugs hide beneath the mulch during the day and emerge at night to dine on seedlings of such crops as cucumber, squash, beans, and cabbage. Crops that I do mulch now include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Straw mulch is my favorite but is sometimes difficult to find. Salt marsh hay is a popular mulch but is more expensive than straw. Spoiled hay is quite common but has many weed seeds.
* Apply mulches to flower beds and borders. For aesthetic reasons, the organic mulches I use in flower gardens are different than those used in the vegetable garden. Preferred mulches for flower beds and borders are buckwheat hulls, cocoa-bean hulls, pine needles, shredded bark, and wood chips. The latter product I sift through ½-inch mesh screen to get smaller and more attractive wood chips for application to flower gardens.
* Plant bluestar (Amsonia) as a filler in shrub borders. This native plant with light blue, star-like flowers requires little care and is a great addition to the low-maintenance garden. It blooms in June and July. In fall, its leaves turn gold in color. Plant this and other perennials this month.
Plant some pansies and nasturtiums in your vegetable garden. Why the vegetable garden? What better place for food crops! Huh? One of the trends in gourmet food preparation in recent years has been edible flowers. They are sometimes used for garnish but more often than not are part of the prepared dish. Currently, about 35 varieties of flowers are used for culinary purposes. Pansies and nasturtiums are the most popular. Nasturtiums are particularly versatile since the peppery flavored leaves may be used to spice up salads and their green seed pods can be pickled as a substitute for capers. Other flowers often used in food preparation include borage, calendula, chrysanthemum, daylily, geranium, lobelia, rose and violet. Hey, if you don’t like the taste of a particular dish, at least it’ll be pretty to look at as you dream of cheeseburgers.