The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

June 6, 2011

Master Gardener’s hint: Pinch, pinch and pinch some more

Sallie Carlisle

The Daily Southerner —  Well, it is time to decide once and for all. Is that tall, stately stem with the bulging bud at the crown the promised returning perennial you planted last year or is it just another weed. You’ve been mulching and nourishing it for a couple of months, and now it’s time to commit. It’s time to stake it and you’ve got to decide. In the past, I admit to searching ditch banks, trying to find a similar plant.

    Surely, if it grows free on an Edgecombe County roadside, I wouldn’t have bought it for real money in some gardener’s center. Surely not! In the past (in fact, as I am writing this) I admit to allowing a certain interloper a temporary stay just until its especially pleasing flower fades. Then it’s out of there (alas, it may have left a few seeds for next year and I’ll have to go through this again).

    Be all that as it may, now that the Master Gardener Volunteers are in full flower in our area, you can pose the question of your problematic plant’s true identity to them and then drive your stake accordingly. This months tips and suggestions:

1. Stake early and often. It’ll save some backbreaking rearranging in the long run, not to mention the destruction you reek on the poor recumbent as you try to correct his posture mid-season.

2. Have you envied your neighbors’ compact, bushy floral displays? Have you labeled those neighbors show-offs in your head? Here is their secret. They pinch, pinch, and pinch some more. It really does increase flowering and encourages branching and more compact growth. Your own petunias, annual salvias and zinnias will be every bit as glorious as those down the block. Pinching will benefit your basil as well.

3. Believe it or not, you can start to save seeds for next year. If you haven’t deadheaded every single flower as  have been bidding you, you might find some seeds to save to start the process over again. Just be sure to label them well unless you like that potluck kind of garden. It’s always nice to share any extras with fellow garden enthusiasts.

4. Don’t forget to check your lawnmower's deck height and avoid cutting closer than two inches, especially if it is particularly hot and dry. This is a basic survival technique for your lawn in our prevailing summer climate.

5. If you are a container gardener, you will need to water those plants more frequently than inground plants, often daily.

6. Also pertaining to watering and our hot, dry summers – if you are watering the lawn or the garden, you will want to water long and thoroughly. This encourages roots to grow deep where they are better protected from heat and drought.

7. I can’t believe I’m actually writing this but a Master Gardener Volunteer sent in this suggestion and I am obliged to pass it on. Here goes. Embrace the serpent in your garden. I do not mean the triangularheaded, decoratively coated or venomspewing variety, and certainly not the Biblical serpent bearing fruit.

    I mean the nice and harmless garden or black variety. Those fellows feast on voles whole, a gruesome thought, but so is the sight of what voles can do to your hostas. Let’s just say that a sighting of the right snake in the right place at the right time needn’t necessarily provoke a scene of hysteria. The informed gardener (that’s you) might see this as just another bit of evidence that Mother Nature is balancing things out once again. And let’s leave it at that.

    Let us hear from you. Please do keep an eye out for news of the Farmers’ Market and turn out to support our local growers. Sallie Carlisle is a 2010 graduate of the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program.