Question and Answer
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.