Jun 2003 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Jun 2003

Q. My iris were beautiful with lots of flower buds this year, but just about the time they were in full bloom, the heavy rains came and knocked all the tall, blooming stems to the ground. Is there any way to prevent this? — Wendy Lacrosse, Fort Wayne, Ind.

A. Many plants can be pinched early in the season to increase branching and reduce lodging, which is the fancy word for crashing to the ground. These crops include mums, asters, and daisies and any other plant that produces a great many branches. Unfortunately, iris are not among them.

You have two choices. You can select short cultivars that are less likely to lodge or stake the plants that you have. Individual heavy flowers can be tied, below the flower itself, to a piece of bamboo or wooden stake in the nearby ground. If it’s an entire clump, you can surround it with stakes and encircle it with twine.

Iris planted in full sun have stronger stems and are less likely to lean over. Consider transplanting any plants currently in a partly shady area.

Q. I have lots of seedling maple trees coming up in my garden beds. I really don’t want them to grow there, but I hate to throw away so many potential trees. Will it work to transplant them to another area of the yard, and, if so, should I do that now or wait until later? Is there a market for them? — Fred Hardesty, Columbus, Ind.

A. The desirable maples on the market are cultivars, bred and selected for improved insect and disease resistance, form, growth pattern and fall color. You’re not likely to find a market for seedling maples, except to give to neighbors and thereby forest your neighborhood!

You can dig and transplant them in the spring or fall. Try to keep the soil in contact with the roots during the transplanting process, then water them well.

Q. I put weed and feed on my lawn to kill the dandelions and feed the grass. The next time I mowed, I raked the grass clippings and put them around my garden vegetables. My neighbor told me I shouldn’t have done this because the clippings could poison my vegetables. Should I remove the clippings? — Mona Doyle, Terre Haute, Ind.

A. Usually, you can use clippings as mulch around garden plants or add them to the compost pile. If they’ve been treated with a weed killer within the past two months, however, they may injure garden plants, especially the tender stems of vegetables, annuals or perennials. Remove and compost them for two months or use a mulching lawn mower, which chops up the clippings before it deposits them back on the lawn.

Grass clippings left on the lawn are not harmful to the turf if the lawn is mowed frequently and at the proper height. In fact, the clippings actually return some nitrogen and other nutrients back to the soil. Clippings are mostly made up of water, and the rest decomposes very quickly. It has been estimated that returning clippings to the soil is the equivalent of one fertilizer application per year.

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