NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 7, 2014

Tim's Tips: Killing moss, creating ideal soil and other spring tidbits

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — This week, there are a lot of odds and ends to cover on things that you need to know about your lawn and gardens.

There have been a lot of people stopping by the store asking questions about moss growing in their lawn. If you rake the moss out of the lawn, it will just grow back. You need to kill the moss if you want to stand a chance of keeping it from returning to your lawn. There are moss killers that you can apply to the moss. The moss usually dies in a few days. Once the moss dies, you can rake it up.

Moss grows because of shade, poor drainage and acid soil. If you apply lime to the areas where moss has grown, then you stand a good chance of keeping it at bay. In some cases, you can’t do much about the shade. The poor drainage issue may be due to clay soil. An application of horticultural gypsum will help increase the drainage.

Many of you will be planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. These plants need to get a new root system established in their new home. When you are planting into containers of any type, you should be using a good-quality potting soil in the containers. If you are putting plants into the ground, you need to know the soil conditions that are best for that particular plant.

As an example, some plants want a well-drained soil. Some plants need a soil that is rich in organic matter. It is up to you to create the ideal growing conditions if the soil in your yard does not meet the requirements of the plant. In many cases, mixing in a garden soil or a planting mix will help create a soil that will be ideal for your new plants.

Once you have your plants in the ground or in your containers, you should initially fertilize your plants with a plant starter fertilizer. This fertilizer is mixed with water, and the plants are watered with the fertilizer solution. This plant starter fertilizer is used just once, at the time of planting. After that, you will use applications of fertilizer based on the needs of the plant.

Every year about the middle of June, we have people come into the store who are having problems with the hanging flowering baskets that they got around Mother’s Day. Initially, the plants were flowering fine, but over time, the flowers became less and less.

Usually, the first question I ask them is, “Have you been fertilizing the plant?” The answer is usually no. When you have plants that are grown in any type of container, there is a limited amount of soil from which the roots of the plant can draw its food. If you are not replacing the food that the plants are taking from the soil, the plants will suffer.

We have always recommended that people use what is called a blossom booster type of fertilizer for flowering hanging baskets and other container-grown flowering plants. As the name implies, this fertilizer encourage the formation of new flowers. Start the season off right, and get those container-grown plants on a regular schedule of fertilization.

Every year, during early May, I get asked if it is safe to put plants out into the garden. This usually centers around being able to plant tomato plants.

There are cold-tolerant plants that you can set out early in the planting season. However, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, eggplant and some annual flowers can be killed by either cold temperatures or by a late frost. The last average date for a frost in our area is May 10.

Generally speaking, at the time of the full moon in May is when we get our last frost. The full moon this May occurs on the 14th. But there have been cases of frost as late as Memorial Day. If you follow the advice of many of the old farmers, you plant tender plants on Memorial Day. You may get away with planting earlier, or you may become a repeat customer.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.