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Reader Mailbag

Fri, May 25th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, May 28, 2001

This week I'd like to introduce a new feature for Local Gardener, Reader Mailbag, a chance for readers to ask questions about their own gardens, then I'll try my best to give a good answer. Or at least a funny one! You can write to the Journal (the address is in the front of the paper) or email me (address below). I know that if one person has a question, others are probably thinking the same thing. So, here's the first question: 'I have planted daffodil bulbs in the lawn, now that they are done blooming, how soon can I mow them?

After any bulbs have bloomed they need to continue to grow green leaves in order to feed the bulb for next year. Their growing time is short, the foliage usually disappears in a few weeks. For best bulb health, let them continue to grow until they begin to yellow at the tips of the leaves and the green changes from that bright grass green to a dull grey green. This signals that they are beginning to go dormant and you can mow them to the highest setting on your mower.

It's also a good idea to deadhead, or break off the seed pod that forms on the flower stalk. Any energy the plant sends to seed making is less energy towards feeding the bulb for next year.

I began my gardening career in the early 80's as an estate gardener, working for the Very Rich and Sometimes Famous residents of Lake Minnetonka. We would prune and primp until everything would be pretty enough for a magazine photo shoot. No offense intended toward anyone wealthy enough to afford a crew of gardeners every week, but one technique we had for dealing with daffodils after they bloomed was to braid the stems and lay them down in between the other plants so they wouldn't be seen but they could carry on photosynthesizing. Just a little fussy but we did get good results. If you have time on your hands, you may want to give it a try!

Tent Caterpillars Are Back

Have you noticed those thick webs between the branches of trees along the road? About the size of a baseball, the web is usually found in the fork of a branch about 5 - 15 feet up. The tent caterpillar is a larval form of a moth and can do a little damage as they defoliate trees. The damage won't kill your trees, and they will be done and gone before you can get out the spray can. If they have nested on a valuable tree in a prominent part of your landscape, the best way to get rid of them is by physically removing the nest. A broom or long handled pole will work. But you must do this after sundown when the caterpillars are inside. They leave the nest in the day to feed, so removing the nest then only makes them mad and hungrier.

Don't be shy, send in your gardening questions today. Here's hoping for a warm and sunny week.

Virginia Cooper writes and still waits for summer from her farm in Mabel. Her email is virgcoop@yahoo.com.

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