Ask the gardening expert
Thursday, August 23, 2012
There are several kinds of tall grasses growing in my mom's garden. We don't know what any of them are, but they look nice. She has been working to keep all the plants healthy and the weeds out of her garden. The only problem seems to be with the taller grasses. They are starting to fall over. We've tried using string and garden stakes, but it's hard to do, and looks awful. What can we do?
I'm wondering if she fertilized the grasses.
Ornamental grasses really don't need to be fertilized, especially in the growing season. And a nitrogen fertilizer, in particular, will cause the grasses to grow too tall, so that they become unable to withstand wind and weather.
There is not much you can do to correct this situation this growing season. I suggest you cut the floppy stems down for the sake of tidiness.
Next spring, cut all the old stems when you see new green growth beginning. If you wish to add fertilizer, do it then, but only one application of a slow-release fertilizer. That should do it for the year. However, I never fertilize my ornamental grasses, and they grow and bloom just fine.
We are suddenly finding deer in our garden. We've been in our five-acre home for two years and never had them come into our garden before. They are wiping out our vegetables. When I go out to yell at them, they just look at me. I throw rocks at them, and they seem to come closer. What can I do?
These deer have become unafraid of humans. Their coming toward you tells me someone in your area is feeding them. Bad practice! A hunter with a gun could be mistaken for a "feeder" and the deer could walk into a bullet; that's not fair.
The No. 1 defense is a dog or two, out on duty all night. That's inexpensive to set up, but hard on the dog in cold wet weather. A more expensive method is a fence 8 feet or taller, with 6 to 8 strands, maybe even electrified. Electric fences are not very pretty, but they are effective. (Certainly not a good option in a housing district, or neighborhood, but on rural acreage such as yours it may be the way to go.)
Around my garden, we built a fence 4 feet tall, then about 40 inches inside that one we built another 4-foot fence. Deer can jump high and also jump over a wide area, but fear breaking a leg if needing to jump both high and wide. They would need to jump nearly 5 feet high, and over 6 feet wide to clear both our fences. With shrubs and plants obstructing their view, they could not see if they risked injury on landing. Then the outside fence was electrified, with the power off in the daytime.
I have pulled morning glory from my hedge all summer and I'm not getting it all. How can I get control of it?
Morning glory is tough; if a tiny bit of root is left it will come back in a flash it seems. Although I'm not a big fan of chemical use, I feel there are time and situations where careful use is the most practical solution. Try glyphosate (Roundup). In this case, do not spray it -- use a small sponge paint brush dipped in the herbicide (full strength, and don't let it drip). Wipe it on morning glory stems and leaves. Make sure not to touch other plants. It often takes a few applications to reach all the twining weed plants; wait until leaves start to brown and reapply to those that remain green.
Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.