Carol Stocker – Globe Correspondent
May 18, 2022 11:41 a.m.
What to do this week Next weekend is the traditional holiday for planting tomatoes and other frost-sensitive vegetables and ornamentals, but global warming continues to push the calendar forward, so you’re probably safe to start buying annuals now, herbs, vegetables and vegetable gardens at local nurseries and fund sales. After thoroughly weeding the beds, transplant frost-sensitive seeds, seedlings and young plants outdoors on an overcast day. If you’re in a colder area than Boston, wait about a week to be safe. Plant bean and coriander seeds every two weeks for a continuous harvest. Plant the tomatoes in a different spot than last year to protect them from soil diseases and set them 2 inches deeper than they will grow in the pot to increase rooting. Plant basil with them to repel the tomato hornworm. Tomatoes labeled “indeterminate” will continue to grow all season and will require staking, while those labeled “determinate” are earlier varieties that all fruit at once and usually don’t need them. If cutworms are a problem, encircle the stems with aluminum foil collars driven into the soil. Water new plants daily when the weather is hot and dry.
Q I have been growing a houseplant in my closed walkway for 15 years. Over the past few months, a quarter of the leaves (mainly at the lower level) have dried out. It has been in a 9 inch pot for about five years. What could be the problem?
A. If the soil dries out quickly, the lower leaves turn yellow, or the roots stick out of drainage holes, your plant probably needs repotting. Spring is the best time for this. Select a new container no more than 2 inches wider than your current one, with drainage holes in the bottom. If it has already been used on plants, wash it first in a solution of one part liquid bleach to nine parts water, then rinse thoroughly to kill all plant diseases. Most plants are easily removed from their pots if you hold them upside down with your hand under the pot and the plant between your fingers. Tap on the edge while smashing it. Cut or unroll any revealed roots encircling the plant. Lightly moisten some premium potting soil (not garden soil) and place it in the bottom of the new container. Adjust and install the root ball in the middle until it is one inch below the rim of the container. Fill the sides with soil and gently press down with your fingers. Finish by watering until the water runs out of the drainage holes. Do not fertilize for a few months, as there is usually already some in the soil purchased.
It’s also a good time to put some houseplants outside for a summer vacation in the fresh air. Choose a place protected from too much sun and wind where you will remember to water them, perhaps a terrace.
Q I would like to disguise an 18 inch tall pipe sticking out of my front yard and downsize my lawn with a large garden bed of shrubs and perennials, maybe even an ornamental tree, but I don’t know. not what can be safely planted near the well plug, if any.
A. I applaud reducing the size of your water- and chemical-intensive lawn, but trees can get big, and so can their roots. Choose small shrubs and perennials. Consider artificial hollow plastic “boulders” designed to cover these pipes year-round. They also serve as a garden feature for grouping plants, such as Japanese hollies, small, shiny shrubs for sun or shade with black berries for birds. Low-maintenance landscape roses, such as the Knock Out variety, yield the most colorful blooms for the least effort in the sun. Check out Solomon’s seal if you plant in the shade. It can be a revelation. Called Polygonatum biflorum, it is a low-maintenance, tall, elegant native whose stems arch in the same direction at the same height of 3 feet. They swing ivory bells in May which attract hummingbirds. Although it is a wildflower, it has the architectural formality of tulips, making it ideal for landscaping. As a ground cover, it resembles tall lily of the valley, but without the aggressive growth habit. Look for it at the Native Plant Trust in Framingham or nurseries, but avoid its more common variegated Asian cousin (P. odoratum), which is too short to conceal your well plug and is less impressive.
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