Garden Journal

Hay, hay, hay: It’s time to start mulching ahead of the late-summer drought. Hay, leaves, wood chips, pine straw, partially finished compost, peanut hulls or whatever other dry organic matter you can dredge up will keep your plants happy. Grass clippings and other green material is okay, but keep it back from plant stems. Grass is high in nitrogen and way too hot for your cultivars to handle.

Feeling mumsy: July is a good time to divide and relocate chrysanthemums for your autumn Andie MacDowell garden. Mum stems root readily and therefore develop clumps that can be easily parted out with a garden trowel. Mums prefer well-prepared, fertile, sandy soil and resent “wet feet.” And, to help prevent disease and pest problems, don’t grow your mums in the same spot for more than three consecutive years.

Pie-eyed bliss: Once you’ve picked your blackberry and raspberry bushes and cleaned and converted the fruit to pies, jams, jellies or wine, it’s time to whack ’em. Cane fruits produce berries only on new growth, so any currently bearing stalk should be cut back to the ground. Then it’s time to train this year’s shoots and prune the ones that are headed in the wrong direction. Cane fruits naturally wander, engaging in a gradual migration toward new ground, but the determined gardener can beat them into submission. (And be sure to wear gloves.)

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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